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Research Projects

The research being conducted approaches the problem of developing culturally appropriate and effective mental health care for Aboriginal populations:

NAMHR Research Axes

Our research emphasizes putting these problems in a social context through understanding the lived worlds of pregnant young women and children. The elucidation of indigenous models and metaphors of healing identifies the implicit ideologies that shape intervention and health policy.

These studies are linked both conceptually and methodologically. Conceptually, all studies derive from certain core assumptions:

  • Part of what is distinctive about Aboriginal peoples is their shared social predicament arising out of the history of contact with, and colonization by, Euro-Canadian society. Understanding the impact of this history on mental health requires attention to both Aboriginal peoples themselves and to the knowledge and practices of non-Aboriginal mental health practitioners and policy makers.
  • Cultural psychiatric research has made it clear that mental health theory and practice must be critically examined in terms of its cultural context and implicit assumptions. This is as true for conventional psychiatric practice as it is for indigenous forms of healing.
  • Aboriginal peoples are not simply passive recipients or consumers of mental health services devised by others, but are actively engaged in redefining their individual and collective identity, notions of health and healing, and modes of service.

Methodologically, the studies employ ethnographic, comparative and epidemiological methods. Ethnographic methods allow us to give a central place to the voice and perspective of Aboriginal peoples. Epidemiological and comparative methods allow us to address the problem of generalizability and relate differences to specific features of individuals or communities. Whenever feasible, the studies take place in parallel at the same sites in order to reduce intrusiveness, enable economies of scale, and promote cross-fertilization of findings. An outline of the specific methodologies is provided in the sections that follow describing each project.

The ultimate goal of these studies is to identify a range of best practices framed not only in terms of treating identifiable psychiatric disorders, but also in terms of their impact on individual and collective well-being and the pursuit of larger moral social values.

CIHR