Mental health support goes grassroots in Kitamaat Village

Crisis Response Committee to bridge gaps in health services for the Haisla in Kitamaat Village.

When a member of the community died, volunteers with the Haisla Health Centre opened up Kitamaat Village’s recreation centre and welcomed affected persons inside where they were hosted through all hours of the night.

It is at once a great demonstration of community members taking the lead in supporting others in need, yet it’s also a sign of how health workers in Kitamaat Village are closing the gap between government funded services and the true needs of the community.

Health Manager Eric Bottah says they had to figure out a way to reach people who otherwise would fall through the cracks of the established health system.

For instance, the office closes each day at 4:30 p.m., and there are no workers on during the weekends.

Late last year they held a survey to find out what people in the community wanted as far as services so the Health Centre could gear their efforts where they’d be most effective.

The result is the Haisla Community Crises Response Committee, is a key group which provides outreach to the community to combat suicides and give support to people in times of crisis.

The committee, which so far consists of a core group of 15 who are trained in suicide prevention. The training is a key component; members have been provided special skills to deal with the issues.

The people on the committee, he said, are in a sense gatekeepers to mental health services in the community.

There are a lot of reasons why grassroots approaches to crises is important.

Kitamaat Village is a community of approximately 700 people.

A single incident can affect the entire community, he said.

For suicides specifically, there has been three suicides in the Village over the past three years, one as recently as September.

In British Columbia as a whole, the suicide rates in Aboriginal communities are as much as five to six times the rate as non-Aboriginal communities.

Bottah says there’s a reality in First Nation communities when it comes to services. That is, there is often a shortfall of some kind.

For one, there are usually not enough mental health counsellors.

For those that are working they are primarily concentrated in the Lower Mainland, which makes accessing their services, or even affording them, a challenge.

(Bringing up a counsellor means providing food, lodging, and other expenses.)

Meanwhile for the people living in the communities, they are often dealing with a variety of issues, such as the boredom that comes with living in a rural area, poor living conditions, and addictions, said Bottah.

When the health centre conducted their survey in December, the results showed there was a keen interest in offering services which related very closely with suicide.

Forty-eight per cent even named suicide prevention as a priority. Forty-seven per cent also prioritized alcohol and drug education, and 38 per cent wanted focus on treatment aftercare.

Bottah says the strategy to use community resources includes using community networks, the experience of community elders and other programs such as North West Counselling.

Members of the community Crises Response Committee are screened through background and criminal record checks and they’re all bound by confidentiality agreements.

“If trust goes away the whole program falls apart,” said Bottah.

He also said they want to reduce the barriers people have to addressing their problems.

“By raising awareness of mental health, drugs and addiction we can help people to talk about their problems,” he said.

Breaking down the stigma will help the committee reach more people.

The Crises Response Committee will get a formal introduction to Kitamaat Village when the Haisla Health Centres hosts a community forum on October 21.


Just Posted

Kitimat’s Water Quality Advisory, which has been in place for just over a week, has been lifted. (Black Press file photo)
Water Quality Advisory in Kitimat lifted

The district has been under a Water Quality Advisory since June 2

On June 16 at 6 p.m., the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a public presentation and discussion with Happipad, a social enterprise, to talk about solutions for affordable housing Kitimat. (Happipad photo)
Affordable housing to be focus of Kitimat Chamber of Commerce meeting

Figures indicate the average Kitimat household needs to make more than $92,000 a year

(District of Kitimat logo)
Hirsch Creek Bridge restricted to single lane traffic

The district is restricting the bridge traffic to legal highway loads only

Artist’s illustration of the proposed Kitimat LNG facility at Bish Cove near Kitimat. (Kitimat LNG illustration)
Haisla Nation surprised by Woodside pull out from Kitimat LNG project

Haisla Nation council states its main focus is now on developing the Haisla-led Cedar LNG project

(Northern Health logo)
Pop-up vaccine clinic tomorrow at the Save-on-Foods parking lot in Kitimat

The clinic will be this Friday, June 11 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read