Rising up to the mental health challenge

MNO hosts training for Aboriginal front-line workers

Amanda Desbiens
MNO Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program Coordinator Amanda Desbiens
discussing FASD at MNO’s mental health training.

The Ministry of Youth and Child Services approached the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) to organize training sessions for the Ontario Aboriginal community due to MNO’s excellent reputation in the field of healing and wellness and its successful relationships with the Ontario Aboriginal community. It was felt that the MNO was a natural choice to bring together a diversity of Aboriginal groups all working in the same areas. Over the week of March 26-28 the MNO hosted twenty Aboriginal organizations in Toronto for a series of training sessions on the topics of trauma, mental health and victim services.

This is the first in a series of three articles that will appear on the MNO website about the positive work that was advanced during these sessions. This article focuses on child and youth mental health.

Mental health issues in children and youth are on the rise. More and more children and youth are being diagnosed with mental health issues or are suffering in silence. Acknowledging the high demand for mental health services the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) invited front-line staff working with Aboriginal children and youth from across Ontario to participate in mental health training.

The three-day training session was designed to develop skills that will improve supports to clients who have experienced trauma; learn about the impact of vicarious trauma and discover individual, organization and community strategies for self-care and wellness; help front-line workers provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis; and gain insight on resiliency and resource-building for Aboriginal people.

“The training is pertinent to the issues I deal with on a daily basis,” said Jay Smith, Residential Youth Counsellor with Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services. “I have gained an overall better understanding of the complex issues I face in my field of work and have gained another set of tools to use when dealing with them.”

Day one of began with a presentation by Amanda Desbiens, MNO Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program Coordinator, on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). She spoke about her experience as a front-line worker dealing with cases of FASD and how to implement best practices. This was followed by a workshop on vicarious trauma presented by registered social worker Diana Tikasz of Compassion Fatigue Solutions. She provided practical tools for dealing with the effects of workers own compassion fatigue. Participants were taught practical strategies for identifying and dealing with the costs of caring in a mental health setting and coping mechanisms.

Following this, participants took part in a two-day workshop; Mental Health First Aid Canada: For adults who interact with youth curriculum. This curriculum focused on mental health problems and first aid for youth aged 12 to 24. Participants were taught how to identify mental health problems and the appropriate first aid intervention strategies. Presentations were also made by MNO Victim Service Coordinator Megan Muloin and MNO Community Wellness Coordinator TerryLynn Longpre.

“A lot of what was discussed in the workshop is used at my agency. It is definitely a confirmation that we are doing it right and has offered new tools we can implement, said Gabriela Boskovic, Child and Youth Worker for Ganohwasra’s Gayenawahsra Program. “I am very glad that the MNO has invited us to be here.”

Organizations that took part in the training included: First Erie Native Cultural Centre Inc., Timmins Native Friendship Circle, N’Swakamok Friendship Centre, Hamilton Regional Indian Centre, Ontario Native Women's Association, Noojmowin, Ganohkwasra Family Assualt Support Services, Hamilton Native Women’s Centre and Fort Albany Shelter.

MNO is thankful to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services who provided the funding to make this training possible.

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