A Community Partnership to Explore Mental Health Services in First Nations Communities in Nova Scotia
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OBJECTIVE: This study aimed at identifying the gaps, barriers and successes/solutions associated with mental health services in Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia. METHODS: Community-based participatory research, which is consistent with Ownership, Control, Access and Possession principles of research with Aboriginal communities, was employed for this work. Health directors of the 13 Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia were involved with the research question, design and write-up of the study. This qualitative descriptive study consisted of open-ended structured interviews with consumers, family members and health care providers. Systematic data collection and analysis of interviews present an understanding of issues of mental health services in the communities. RESULTS: The findings identified barriers and successes/solutions in mental health services in First Nations communities, where services and resources are different from those in more urban communities. Core programs, covering aspects of education, collaboration and culturally relevant community-based services, were identified as solutions to problems identified by participants. Service providers specified core funding for services as essential for continuity and sustainability. DISCUSSION: While efforts have been made in the past to address mental illness in Mi'kmaq communities, many of these efforts have been proposal driven or crisis oriented. The need for community-based, culturally appropriate, coordinated and sustainable services is evident on the basis of the study's findings. The final report has been disseminated to local community members, participants, Atlantic First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, the Provincial Department of Health and the Atlantic Policy Congress to provide evidence that can inform policy and practice related to mental health in Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia.
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