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Mental Health Awareness Week (May 3rd—9th) on Saugeen First Nation

April 21, 2010

Today I met with Laureen Cote of the Mino Bimaadsawin Health Centre on Saugeen First Nation to discuss her plans for Mental Health Awareness Week at Saugeen.  On Tuesday, May 4th, between 11:00am and 2:00pm, representative from local and regional agencies will be brought together with promoters of traditional Aboriginal healing methods as well as practitioners of alternative therapies like Reiki and Reflexology.  The format will include displays and presentations, as well as an all-ages performance by the F.A.N. Club, a puppet show exploring mental and social issues amongst children.  Elder Shirley John will provide the opening prayer and speak about her own experiences as a client/survivor.

Events such as this forge yet another link in the Interagency Committee chain and offer up numerous excellent ideas.  Any regional committee will as a matter of course require participation from Saugeen First Nation—and this for some fairly obvious reasons.  Though the First Nation is an independent territory and not a part of the Municipality of Saugeen Shores, its residents make full use of local services and have a stake in their administration.  It would seem that only good would come of having the Saugeen Band and regional agencies keep each other informed, especially because the cultural and social differences between the Municipality and the First Nation lead to notable differences in what services are be called upon and how they are used.

The very issue of mental health offers powerful examples.  If one already laments the patchiness of mental health care in the area, it is no surprise that some fundamental needs particular to Aboriginal populations are not being met.  As Laureen described to me, there is a dearth of culturally aware counselors in the County, and it is not unheard of for children from Saugeen to exhaust the entire roster of available school and community counselors yet not arrive at a satisfactory resolution simply because none of the counselors had a general understanding of Anishnabe society, let alone specific Rez issues.  Something needs fixing—let’s get busy!

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