Prime Minister Announcement on Mental Health Falls Short on Helping Those Most At Risk in Canada: First Nations

    OTTAWA, Aug. 31 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine said today's announcement by the Prime Minister is not an
adequate response to First Nations' calls for a comprehensive mental wellness
    "Investment in a Canadian Mental Health Commission is good for Canadians
who have some access to mental health services, but First Nations communities
are currently not supported to deliver comprehensive prevention and healing
services," said National Chief Phil Fontaine, "Including a First Nations
Commissioner and an Aboriginal Advisory Committee are positive steps forward
but without authority, money and direct accountability to First Nations, it is
doubtful any meaningful change can occur."
    The new Canadian Mental Health Commission is based on recommendations of
the May 2006 Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Information and Technology's
report, Out of the Shadows at Last - Transforming Mental Health, Mental
Illness and Addiction Services in Canada. The last federal budget set aside
$10-million over two years to establish a Canadian Mental Health Commission
and pledged further annual funding of $15 million starting in 2009-10.
    "We testified twice before the Senate Committee and included a range of
recommendations specific to investing in community-based mental health
workers, a holistic approach to programs and services, and immediate resources
for healing and addictions impacting our children and youth like crystal
meth," emphasizes National Chief Fontaine, "None of these recommendations will
be actioned by this Commission.
    Direct accountability of the Commission to First Nations governments is
also essential for it to make a difference in our communities because health
research has shown a direct link between mental wellness and
self-determination of First Nations peoples. Without First Nations having a
sense of ownership and control over a comprehensive, mental wellness program,
any new investment or initiative would be working against itself."
    National Chief Phil Fontaine added that some mental health experts have
diagnosed First Nations individuals with low grade levels of Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder as a result of living in poverty and despair. The First
Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey 2002/03 found that 31% of First
Nations adults have attempted suicide in their lives. More than 1 in 4 First
Nations youths reported sad, blue, or depressed feelings for two weeks in a
row in the past year.
    "We're also seeing a lot more clients in First Nations communities who
are diagnosed with FAS/FAE and mental illness. Most communities have no
existing facilities and limited funding, yet, are expected to respond to the
specialized need of these clients," National Chief Phil Fontaine said.
    While we have previously written to the federal Minister of Heath Tony
Clement on this matter and received no response, we will continue to pursue
joint initiatives that will address these concerns.

For further information:

For further information: Bryan Hendry, A/Director of Communications,
(613) 241-6789 ext 229, cell (613) 293-6106,; Karyn Pugliese,
Health Communications, (613) 241-6789 ext 210, cell (613) 292-1877,; Rene Pollett, Communications Specialist, (613) 241-6789,
ext. 314, cell (613) 295-2149,

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