Fort St. James resident Aurora Leigh has launched a new wellness society aimed at supporting Métis people in the B.C.
The Métis Wellness Society will be hubbed in Fort St. James and plans to address mental health and wellness by integrating Indigenous and non-Indigenous approaches to those issues.
Leigh incorporated the project on Feb. 18 and it’s just getting off the ground. She said she wants to “bring research to the ground level” by offering some support services, distributing knowledge materials and resources.
“People can get wellness solutions through both Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of knowing,” Leigh said.
Leigh completed a Bachelor in Anthropology at UBC Okanagan with a focus on cultural anthropology and Indigenous studies. She completed her Masters of Education at UBC Vancouver with a focus on trauma informed learning spaces.
As a Métis woman herself, Leigh said she was struck by the “very dismal” health and wellness outlook for Métis people in B.C.
A report released this year on Feb. 3 by the B.C. Ministry of Health and the Métis Nation of British Columbia (MNBC) found that 76 per cent of Métis youth rated their overall health as “good or excellent” compared to 81 per cent of non-Métis youth.
The report found that Métis youth are less likely than non-Métis youth to eat three meals a day and more often reported going to bed hungry due to a lack of money at home, to buy food.
For Métis adults and Elders, the report found that B.C. Métis “bear a disproportionate burden of disease compared with B.C.’s non-Métis population.”
Diabetes prevalence was higher compared with non-Métis as well.
Other chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma were also prevalent at higher rates than in other residents.
The report pointed to mental health as “a critical area of concern” for Métis people in B.C., and for Métis females and non-binary youth in particular.
Issues of substance use linked to experiences of systemic racism, social exclusion and impacts of colonialism were also highlighted.
Leigh said she hopes to acquire funding to hire Métis staff to help run the project and branch out to communities across the province.
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