Substance abuse from a First Nations perspective, and why there are no band-aid solutions or quick fixes.

We’re halfway through National Addictions Awareness Week, so it seemed timely to share this post from the First Nations Health Authority.

Mental Wellness is the balance between the social, physical, spiritual and emotional life within First Nation’s individuals, families and communities.

Mental Wellness is more than the absence of mental illness.

It encompasses all aspects of a person’s life. ​

Mental wellness is the presence of factors that promote and maintain physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance.


Numerous factors contribute to the high level of mental health and substance use challenges faced by some Aboriginal communities.

• Colonization and assimilation,
• Systemic discrimination and racism,
• Child Apprehension
• Land dispossession
• Loss of tradition, language and culture,
• The legacy of Residential schools, and
• Intergenerational trauma and its effects.

Despite ongoing colonization, communities have worked to restore balance and address mental wellness and substance use.

The FNHA aims to take a wellness approach, recognizing the rich and diverse assets within communities and regions. Several factors that have been identified to promote cultural continuity and wellness within communities include:

• Self-governance
• Stewardship of ancestral lands
• Presence of cultural services
• Control of the Education system
• Control of health services
• Control of Emergency Response services

Why is this important?

While the FNHA works with communities to deliver a number of programs and services, there exist significant gaps in services and inequitable access for communities.

Our vision is that all First Nations and Aboriginal people in BC are supported in a manner that respects their customs, values, and beliefs to achieve and maintain mental wellness and positive, healthy living regardless of where they live.


​Got wisdom?

I think there’s much to be gained in sharing perspectives. Or developing a more two-eyed way of seeing, as Dr Evan Adams says.

Can understanding that:

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection”

help us all navigate our lives better?




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