Mental Health of Rural Mi'kmaw Youth:Community Based Participatory Research
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Background: Some Aboriginal scholars explain mental health as a balance of the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of an individual in connection with families, communities and the land. A critical analysis of the literature identifies that mental health issues faced by Aboriginal youth are associated with the historical legacies of residential schools, the determinants of health, and intergenerational trauma. However, rural Mi’kmaw youth mental health is not clearly understood. Purpose: To explore understandings of mental health among rural Mi’kmaw youth and identify potential actions that promote the mental health of youth aged 14 to 19. Methodology: A critical qualitative inquiry informed by community based participatory research (CBPR), and the theoretical constructs of two-eyed seeing, and ethical space, were employed. The research process was developed in partnership with a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) composed of youth and adults. Data collection consisted of individual storytelling with youth, service providers, parents, teachers, and Elders, talking circles, a community forum, participant observation and field notes which enhanced the credibility and trustworthiness of the study. To ensure confidentiality, all data were collected by the principal investigator; anonymized data were analyzed with the assistance of the CAC. The CAC’s participation in the analysis strengthened the dependability of the findings as common patterns and themes were identified. Atlas ti was utilized to manage data.Youth voices were dominant in the study Findings: The three major themes are; 1) Living my Life Well; Msit no’kmaq, (All My Relations), 2) Adults’ Understanding of Rural Mi’kmaw Youth Mental Health; Wholistic and Relational, 3) Navigating, Negotiating and Creating a Sense of Self. An action plan was co-created with participants, and the CAC which includes the active involvement of Mi’kmaw youth in promoting their mental health. Conclusion: Mental health among rural Mi’kmaw youth is understood in relation to how Mi’kmaw youth strive to live their life well. Their lives are intrinsically interwoven within the community, rooted in historical, socio-economic and political inequities which cannot be addressed by a bio-medical model alone. Findings support the relevance of listening to, and engaging youth in the community regarding the promotion of their mental health.