(Treaty 6 Territory, Saskatoon SK) – The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Executive recognizes the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental wellness in First Nations communities. In response, the Big River First Nation, FSIN Executive, Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association (SFNVA), and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) are proud to announce the rapid deployment of a digital platform to enhance health services, care and connection for those suffering from mental health issues, depression, or addiction.
This First Nations-led initiative is the first-of-its-kind in Canada, and launched in April 2021 with the Big River First Nation, in partnership with TryCycle Data Systems Inc. It uses an app to ‘digitally tether’ clients to in-community nurses and mental health therapists. It is now actively used in 15 First Nations communities and incorporates traditional medicine and healing practices, alongside existing medical services and supports.
“First Nations communities are historically and disproportionately affected by trauma, depression, suicide and substance use and our families are no longer prepared to wait” says Big River First Nation Chief Jack Rayne. “Through this First Nations-owned app, we hope to make a positive and sustainable impact today and for future generations. Our health team felt that distance was sometimes a problem in accessing health support. This app will remove those barriers and fill these gaps.”
“Our First Nations people have Inherent and Treaty Rights to access culturally-specific health and wellness supports” says FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “Our First Nations people must also be able receive care in their First Nations language, in a confidential, safe and private manner. This app will provide that and is much needed for our Elders or those who only speak their language and removes some of those barriers that our First Nations people face when they access the healthcare system.”
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other various mental health issues are some of things that our First Nations Veterans face on a daily basis” says SFNVA Grand Chief Steven Ross. “This program will help our Veterans access culturally-specific supports. For some of our Veterans, English is not their first language and being able to speak to a nurse in their own language is vital part of their care.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of the Treaties, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.
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