Good Medicine: Wellness Champion Breanna Miller Helps Stó:Lō Youth Connect with their Strengths


​Breanna Miller is a mom, an auntie, and a Wellness Champion from Chi:yom First Nation. She's giving back to her community through her work with youth across Stó:lō territory.

Breanna has worked with youth from "day one" of her career, over 15 years ago, starting when she was in her second year of undergraduate studies. Breanna went on to work with Aboriginal Child & Mental Health at the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and then as director of a residential healing centre in Stó:lō territory. After a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology, she began her current role managing youth services at Stó:lō Services Agency.

Part of what inspires Breanna is her own experience as a youth. She explains, “I grew up disconnected from my Stό:lō culture, but I became reconnected as a youth and these teachings and roots have greatly impacted my health and wellbeing.” Today, her work with youth integrates cultural teachings to support a strong sense of identity, meaning, purpose and resilience.


Photo Credit: Sharalee Prang

Stó:lō youth raise their voices for co​mmunity wellness in COVID-19

One program that Breanna and the youth services team provide is the Mémiyelhtel Youth Program, which means "to help others be well" in Halq'eméylem. 

The name Mémiyelhtel was developed in partnership with staff and valued language advisor Bibiana Norris, and brought to the program’s Youth Elders’ Advisory. A Naming Ceremony was held and one staff (Elyse Hood) and one youth (Natasha Kardux) were asked to carry the name on behalf of the program, according to custom.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Breanna, her team and the Mémiyelhtel youth are certainly living up to their name. In April, they launched an innovative #StayHome #ProtectOurElders digital poster campaign that has taken off on Facebook. Each poster features an image of one of the youth, a program alumnus, or an Elder involved with the program, as well as their message about why it is important to stay home and physically distance.

Youth in the Mémiyelhtel program have often had to navigate significant hardships, but are looked up to by their peers and younger generations. Breanna and the team encouraged them to use their influence to support other youth to take action and "help others be well" during COVID-19.

The posters have had thousands of likes and shares, and the campaign has been featured in the local press​.

Staying connected with the youth during COVID-19

Breanna and the Mémiyelhtel team also created and hand-delivered kits filled with art supplies and activities to help youth keep busy during the stay home period. 

She explains that for some, home is a place without access to a computer or WiFi, so taking advantage of online entertainment and activities may be a challenge. For others, staying home can mean not having access to support systems of friends or school.

“We came to learn that any engagement was something. Some services were completely shut down. But, the connections we did get were still important, and we were glad to offer what we could,” says Breanna.

Now in phase 2, Breanna and her team are beginning to have in-person visits with the youth once again. They’ve had to get creative in order to respect physical distancing. One way is by going for a bike ride with the youth, with bikes provided by community partner Vedder Mountain Bike Co. And last week, they held their year-end ceremony – with COVID-19 precautions in place.


Photo Credit: Sharalee Prang

A Message for the Youth

Finding ways to creatively support youth by staying connected and building on their strengths during COVID-19 is just one example of Breanna’s ongoing commitment to youth health and wellbeing.

Breanna wants each youth that she works with to know that the hardships that they have had to face are part of something bigger.

“The cumulative effects of intergenerational trauma have been passed down to each subsequent generation. It is difficult for a young person to not internalize these impacts on their family and themselves. It is important for them to learn this context. As the trauma has been passed down, so has the strength and resilience of our people. We must support young people to make the choice to heal and be the "cycle breakers" in our community,” she explains. 

She shared an Instagram post​ from @ReclaimYourPower that captures her message.​

When asked what brings her to this work, Breanna talks about her own lived experience with adversity in childhood, and how she finds inspiration in being part of the work to break negative cycles affecting her family and community. 

“Although my parents struggled most of my childhood and adolescence, throughout my adult years they were able to be healthier and have an important presence in my life. As I aged, I realized that although they could not be there for me in many ways, they taught me all I needed to know to be a strong and determined person,” she explains.

She reflects that while addiction and loss are rooted in larger systemic issues, there is also power in having a role model.

“At some points, even graduating from high school let alone graduate school was something I couldn’t imagine for myself. But, I also had champions in my life,” she says. Working to be a role model for her siblings and cousins was another way that Breanna found strength and determination.

Today, Breanna is fulfilling that role as a Wellness Champion herself – for her son, her nieces and nephews and Mémiyelhtel youth.

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