How’s your mental health?


​First Nations wholistic approaches can help achieve balance​​


A message from Dr. Nolan Hop Wo, Medical Officer, Mental Health & Wellness, Office of the Chief Medical Officer; and Duanna Johnston-Virgo, Executive Director, Mental Health & Wellness, Community Health & Wellness

​The month of January is often seen as a fresh start in a new year, which makes it a good time to set health goals, including in the area of mental health.

At the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), mental health is as important as physical, spiritual and emotional health. This wholistic way of thinking is included in the First Nations Medicine Wheel and expanded on in the First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness.

There is much to learn from these First Nations wholistic approaches to wellness, which teach that all aspects of health are interconnected. This teaching can sometimes be lacking in Western medicine, which can view mental health as separate from emotional, spiritual, and especially physical health.

With this in mind, here are some of the ways we as Indigenous people can nurture our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health.

Emotional Health

  • Talk to someone who can help you explore your feelings. This might be an Elder, Knowledge Keeper, counsellor, or a trusted person. Expressing your emotions can be healthy and therapeutic if done in a safe environment. Ensuring culturally safer healthcare is one of FNHA's top priorities; please see the links at the end of this story to find services.
  • Another way to express your feelings is to write in a diary or online journal app. Putting your thoughts into words can help you to process what you feel. ​
  • You can also use dance and music to express your feelings. This may support you to process what you feel in a way that nurtures your spirit and well-being.

Mental Health

  • Make time to connect with loved ones.
  • Reach out to people who may be struggling and need support and encouragement. This can be done through messages, phone calls, or in-person.
  • If you are having suicidal thoughts, it's important to have a “safety plan" including knowing who you can reach out to for support and/or medical attention. We recommend that you see a health care practitioner and also include people you trust for support.
  • See the links below for other ways to reach out to mental health supports. 

Physical Health

Spiritual Health

  • Nurture your spirit by connecting with culture (taking part in activities such as drumming, dancing, beading, and much more); with nature by being out on the land; with Elders and Knowledge Keepers, family and friends; and even with your pets.
  • Make time to connect with the Creator through prayer and meditation.
  • If you are living in an urban centre and just starting to learn more about your culture, consider going to your local Friendship Centre or other supportive Indigenous and/or culturally safe organizations for more information and community connections. 
  • You can find more practical ideas and tips for supporting your mental health here. You can also read about or watch videos featuring individuals sharing their mental health stories by clicking here and here.

Mental Health Resources & Supports

You can find many culturally safe resources and supports here.

If you need help with mental health and wellness challenges, there are several supports and services available to you, including a First Nations virtual psychiatry service that provides individuals with access to specialists in psychiatry and mental health and wellness care coordinators. As well, if needed, the service has specialists in addictions medicine who can refer you to treatment centres in BC that are familiar with integrating both traditional First Nations teachings and medicines with Western-style approaches. ​

Here is a map of mental health providers that have met the eligibility criteria for coverage under FNHA's First Nations Health Benefits and Services.

To find resources in your area, you can also contact your local Canadian Mental Health Association branch at, your local crisis centre for suicide prevention at, or call 211 / visit

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