A message from Dr. Nel Wieman, FNHA Acting Deputy Chief Medical Officer
First Nations people in BC have been contending with the extra challenges brought on by the pandemic for over a year, and the end is still a ways off – even with the exciting news of vaccines being rolled out across the province. From a mental, emotional and spiritual perspective, it has been challenging for each and every one of us for different reasons.
Two pandemic-related stressors are living with uncertainty and stress about so many things – including the vaccine rollout – and being unable to gather for the social and cultural activities we usually rely on as First Nations people to keep ourselves strong and grounded.
As a First Nations psychiatrist by training, I'd like to talk about a few of the
mental health impacts we're all experiencing as a result of these particular stressors.
Coping with uncertainty
Because of the pandemic, many things have been more out of our control or more unpredictable than usual. If you've been feeling anxious, please know that this is normal. It's very important for our
mental health to not suffer in silence but to reach out for help if necessary, and it's our responsibility as community members to check in with others to see how they're doing – even if they're not saying they're having mental health issues. I also want to remind you of the
various mental health resources and supports available to Indigenous people in BC.
Vaccines, although a powerful tool that will help get us back to “normal" life, have also been a source of stress due to the uncertainties some feel around them. The best way to cope with uncertainty is to get informed, so I encourage you to
go to our website and read the many messages and answers we have provided regarding all of these questions. The bottom line is that everyone who is eligible for and wants to be vaccinated will have the opportunity!
Coping with disconnection
The social and cultural disconnection – combined with uncertainties, stress and the losses we've experienced – has really impacted our collective mental health, and we will have a lot of work afterwards to address this.
Like so many other events before it, this pandemic has disrupted our way of life but will not keep us from continuing to rise and thrive. Meanwhile, until we can all physically gather again, please stay connected by phone or computer and make use of the
many supports available to you.
Shout-out to First Nations people in BC
I want to raise my hands to everyone who has put in so much effort this past year and done their best to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe and strong despite everything.
Because so many people have followed the guidelines, COVID has been kept at low numbers in many communities. I think we all have that sense of hope that things are going to change, even if not quite yet.
We are almost there. Although many things may still be out of our control, what we
are in control of is following the public health orders and guidance – and thus keeping ourselves and others safe while waiting this out. This can be empowering! Soon, we will be able to gather again and hug all of our loved ones. Keep up the good work!
COVID-19 Effects on Mental Health: