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CBC (Feb 11) Canada's first female Indigenous psychiatrist on healing the hearts and minds of her...

Canada's first female Indigenous psychiatrist on healing the hearts and minds of her people

An Indigenous activist recently observed that Canada is at a crossroads: one road points to worsening conditions for Indigenous peoples and the other to a sustainable future.

We all know about the deep poverty, lack of decent living conditions — housing and potable water — that plague many First Nations communities.  

We know that Indigenous children in Canada are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than non-Indigenous kids.

And there is myriad evidence that, where conditions like these exist, mental and physical health suffers, leading to alcoholism, addiction, depression, and high suicide rates.

The question is, what to do about it.

It's a question that has been an ongoing concern for Cornelia Wieman, Canada's first female Indigenous psychiatrist.
Cornelia Wieman

Dr. Cornelia Wieman is currently working on mental health initiatives with the B.C. First Nations Health Authority.

Dr. Wieman was a founding member of the Mental Health Services clinic on the Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest First Nations reserve in the country.

She was a member of a joint government and Assembly of First Nations suicide prevention advisory group in 2001, looking into what could be done about the shockingly high suicide rate among Indigenous youth — which is 5 to 6 times higher than that among non-Indigenous youth in Canada.

Dr. Wieman also describes herself as a survivor. She was one of the many Indigenous children taken from their families by the child welfare system — usually without the consent of their families or bands — in what has become known as the "Sixties Scoop."

Dr. Wieman was taken from Little Grand Rapids in Manitoba and moved 600 km to northern Ontario, where she was adopted by a white Dutch family and brought up without knowing very much about her biological family.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Dr. Wieman has just taken on a new job in Vancouver, working on mental health initiatives with the First Nations Health Authority. It's a major undertaking. There are 198 First Nations in B.C., all with distinct needs. 

To view the original article, click here.

Health Canadacihr logo1This initiative has been generously funded by grants from Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the funders.