From Medical Xpress: “The traditional medicine wheel, symbolizing balance and interconnection, can serve as a framework for improving the mental well-being of First Nations people in Manitoba.
That’s the key recommendation from a mental-health study conducted by eight First Nations communities in partnership with the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba (FNHSSM) and researchers from the University of Manitoba.
‘Traditional teachings have to come back in order [for us] to know who we are and how to balance ourselves,’ said an Elder participant in the study. ‘We need to go back to having the mind, the body and the soul reconnect.’ […]
‘The biomedical model of treating mental illness is compartmentalized. The medicine wheel framework is holistic. You treat the whole person, within the family and within the community. You support the person in achieving balance in their emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health.’
The Elders identified strategies for mental wellness such as participating in and contributing to the community; finding a sense of meaning and purpose; taking part in spiritual activities such as sweats, ceremonies and round dances; connecting with the land; and gaining knowledge and strength from sharing histories and stories.
A strong theme was that a sense of identity within the community creates feelings of belonging that foster health. ‘Relationships create co-operative energy for dealing with illness,’ the study says.
Ties to the land in one’s home community are powerful for mental health, the Elders said. ‘When your soul is sick, what you need is not a pill, it’s to go back into that place of connection to family, to homeland, to knowing who you are,’ says Kyoon-Achan.
‘A big cause of mental illness is dislocation,’ says Wanda Philips-Beck, an Anishinabe nurse research manager with FNHSSM and a U of M Ph.D. student who took a leadership role in the study.
‘Land-based forms of healing are legitimate. For example, a program to take at-risk youth out to build a lodge and learn to harvest animals in a respectful way teaches them how to live in community, work as a team and develop relationships. That strengthens mental well-being.'”