April 7, 2017
(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said that World Health Day, marked on April 7 with this year’s theme being “Depression”, is an opportunity to use this day to focus on life promotion and First Nations strengths and resilience. The time has come to end the stigma around mental health and focus on mental wellness.
“We are all on the journey to wellness together,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “Today, reach out to a friend or family member and remind them how important they are to you. We need to support one another, and as First Nations we need to support our languages and cultures. A strong sense of identity is directly connected to better health. I urge anyone who feels they need help to talk to a friend, family, Elder or someone you trust and tell them how you feel. Depression affects many people and this can be your first step to healing and wellness.”
The National Chief noted that Indigenous experts speaking at the recent World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne, Australia, stated that strengthening Indigenous cultures would reduce suicide rates amongst Indigenous youth worldwide.
In Canada, First Nations experience significantly higher rates of mental health challenges than the general population. This disparity can be explained, in part, by unique contextual factors that influence mental health in those communities, such as the effects of colonialism and more difficult access to health services.
The 2008–2010 First Nations Regional Health Survey (RHS) found that approximately half of on-reserve First Nations experience moderate to high levels of psychological distress, a term used to measure an individual’s level of anxiety and depression. Comparatively, one third of the general population experiences similar levels of psychological distress.
World Health Day is a global health awareness day marked every year on April 7 under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-292-0857 or [email protected]