Feds earmark more money for Inuit mental health during pandemic
“Community-driven, culturally appropriate and timely mental health supports are critical” during the COVID-19 pandemic
More money will be channelled from Ottawa over the coming months to Inuit organizations to improve mental health services for Inuit.
“Community-driven, culturally appropriate and timely mental health supports are critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marc Miller, the minister of Indigenous Services, when he announced on Aug. 25 that $82.5 million had been earmarked for mental health services for First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
“In almost all of the discussions that I have had with First Nations, Inuit and Métis representatives since the beginning of the pandemic, the importance of recognizing and supporting mental wellness as a core need of the COVID-19 response has been communicated regularly.”
“Community-driven, culturally appropriate and timely mental health supports are critical to promote the well-being for anyone struggling to cope with the added stress and anxiety the COVID-19 pandemic has created.”
The money, whose distribution among Inuit organizations has not yet been announced, will go to expand access to services such as on-the-land activities, community-based health supports and mental wellness teams, a background document said.
The money will help pay for adapting mental health services, such as virtual counselling, developing new strategies to address substance use and improving access to treatment services.
During his announcement, Miller cited the huge increase in the use of the Hope for Wellness Help Line.
From January to April 2019, it received 3,602 calls and chats from individuals seeking crisis intervention services, but that jumped to more than 10,000 calls and chats during the same period in 2020, “representing a 178 per cent increase in demand,” Miller said.
Access to many mental wellness services for Indigenous communities has been disrupted or has shifted to virtual and telehealth approaches, while many remote communities struggle with limited connectivity, a news release on the announcement said.
While this has led to further challenges, it also has led to new and innovative approaches to wellness, it said.
The federal government has already announced a total of $610 million to help Indigenous communities—including Inuit communities—cope with the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, through its Indigenous Support Fund, first in March and again in August.
Recently, Ottawa announced that schools would receive money to increase COVID-19 prevention. Of that, Nunavut will receive $5.75 million to improve school safety.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, you can call the following organizations:
- Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
- Kamatsiaqtut Nunavut Helpline: 1-800-265-3333
- Elders’ Support Line: 1-866-684-5056