Men in northern Manitoba are now accessing mental health and addictions resources much closer to home.
After a year of already running programs, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Movember have officially launched Canada’s first sub-arctic Indigenous mental health addictions centre in Churchill.
Those living in the northern town of around 900 people and its surrounding communities have struggled to access local resources for years, Movember’s global director of Indigenous programs Sonia Prevost-Derbecker told CJOB on Thursday.
“Indigenous men in these communities have been forced to seek support away from home in larger cities across the country — Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and elsewhere — where their cultural and family systems and supports are not available, and we see the outcomes of that as very, very tragic,” Prevost-Derbecker said.
“By having programs available to them in their own backyard, we can help improve the chances of a positive outcome.”
The Churchill Wellness Centre is looking to change that with alternative, culturally-sensitive programs that help men reconnect with traditional knowledge and skills, she said. So far, 143 men in the northern town have accessed its programs, with hopes of expanding services to 40 Indigenous communities in the surrounding area, a Thursday news release said.
“This isn’t a treatment centre where you go in, you detox, you go through a thousand steps, and then you sort of (bounce) out,” Prevost-Derbecker said.
“This is a holistic wellness approach that includes a real integrated service delivery model of both Indigenous past culture and common primary health care, working collaboratively and collectively with our Indigenous communities.”
The centre provides a number of programs — overseen by the Subarctic Friendship Circle and The Knowledge Keepers — that promote mental health literacy and social inclusion in men, including a “Bros Group” and a land-based program that help men explore traditional Indigenous knowledge and skills like dog mushing, fishing and hunting along with beading, cooking and drum making, the release said.
“The Churchill Wellness Centre was inspired by the community — we asked them what they wanted, and better local support services was their clear answer,” COO of the Churchill Health Centre Jason Klainchar said in the news release.
“It is well documented that Indigenous people across Canada suffer from poorer health outcomes than non-Indigenous peoples,” the release said.
“Young men in northern (communities) are more at risk of adverse health impacts resulting from insufficient access to health services, healthy food, or mental health services or to experience poverty and unemployment.”
Movember also runs programs in Winnipeg and Arviat, Nunavut. The charity is committing $1 million over three years to the Churchill Wellness Centre.