Indigenous Mental Health Project Overview

January 31, 2022

Indigenous Innovation Initiative Mental Health Awareness Month

        As we approach the end of the month, we are nearing the end of our mental health awareness series. Our efforts in raising awareness for mental health in January were in two part due to key mental health awareness days in January, such as Bell Let’s Talk, and the acknowledgement of the new budget or mental health available by the Ministry of Addictions and Mental Health of Canada. Ongoing and unresolved trauma due to colonial policies and practices in Canada has created a large difference in the mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being of First Nation, Inuit and Metis Peoples and non-indigenous Peoples of Canada, especially youth. For example, Indigenous Peoples experience higher rates of fear, anxiety and depression, and suicide rates are up to eleven times higher than non-Indigenous Peoples, especially among youth aged 15 to 24[1]. Even though there are Indigenous-focused mental health services and programs available across Canada, the well-being of First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities continues to suffer. Despite this, Indigenous Peoples are resilient, creative and innovative. Many of these challenges can be solved using actions that are created for and by First Nation, Inuit and Metis Peoples, and that are rooted in their Knowledges, Values and lived experiences. Our mental health awareness series was centered on the Three-Stranded Basket approach started in 2018.

        The Indigenous Mental Health Project was started by the Indigenous Innovation Initiative in 2018. We have developed a new approach to help us identify Grand Challenges in Indigenous mental health called the Three-Stranded Basket. The Indigenous Mental Health Project was created to highlight and address the mental health barriers faced by Indigenous communities. One of the main reasons for identifying these barriers is to inform development of a future targeted innovation program that funds innovative solutions by and for First Nation, Inuit and Metis Peoples. Between November 2018 and October 2019, we surveyed and gathered with almost 100 academics, service providers and Indigenous youth from across Canada. Across all strands, participants identified 231 barriers to Indigenous mental, emotional and spiritual health. Among the identified barriers were fear and anxiety about the impacts of climate change, limited or no access to culturally-relevant, self-determined and safe services and programs as well as being disconnected from First Nation, Inuit and Metis culture and identity.

 Winter River

        The Three-Stranded Basket Approach is explained through this video which provides an overview of the project that was developed through the Indigenous Innovation Initiative to identify Grand Challenges in Indigenous mental health. The video was created by Indigenous youth artist Patricia Eve Martin. 

         Innovation and collaboration are key to solving Grand Challenges. Furthermore, for First Nation, Inuit and Metis Peoples this needs to be done in a way that is self-determined and grounded in their ways of knowing and being. To support this, we have used the findings of this project to develop a mental health innovation program. One of the components of the Mental Health Awareness series was to garner attention from public health officials such as Dr. Carolyn Bennett. As we move through his upcoming year, we look forward to creating opportunities and working with community members and government officials in creating solutions to address the identified barriers to Indigenous mental, emotional and spiritual health.


 About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation—known as Integrated Innovation®.  One of the largest impact-first investors in Canada, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 1,300 innovations in 106 countries. Grand Challenges Canada estimates that these innovations have the potential to save up to 1.78 million lives and improve up to 64 million lives by 2030.




[1] Three-Stranded Basket Approach I3