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Aboriginal Mental Health Promotion

A major source of CMHA BC's knowledge and capacity around mental health promotion for Aboriginal people has been our work with Connecting the Dots (CTD). On this page we profile resources we hope will be useful from this and other projects.

Connecting the Dots was an innovative project that ran between 2010-2015 and was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.* The initiative sought to promote the mental health of urban** Aboriginal youth and families by bringing community partners together to address risk and protective factors influencing mental health.

The project was led provincially by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), BC Division and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. It was coordinated locally through Friendship Centres and CMHA branches in three urban Aboriginal BC communities: Kelowna, Port Alberni and Quesnel.

To improve urban Aboriginal mental health, CTD used a model known as Communities that Care, an evidence-based system that uses a public health approach to promote health. The Communities that Care model encourages community members to come together formally, measure risk and protective factors impacting mental health, implement effective programming, evaluate outcomes, and advocate for policy change. The end goal is to reduce the risk factors and enhance protective factors identified in a particular community.

On this page:


Connecting the Dots Resources

Summary documents

  • Executive Summary of Final Evaluation Report (2.4 MB PDF) - a summary of the comprehensive external evaluation of the project, conducted by Nota Bene Consulting Group. It includes findings for each site; adaptations; outcomes for youth, families, Elders, community members and community partners; and lessons learned.

  • Journey Map (2.4 MB PDF) - a graphic depicting the journey of the five-year project across three sites and highlighting key activities

  • Port Alberni project summary (1.3 MB PDF) - an info sheet summarizing highlights of the Port Alberni site

  • Kelowna project summary (733 KB PDF) - an info sheet summarizing highlights of the Port Alberni site

  • Quesnel project summary (1.8 MB PDF) - an info sheet summarizing highlights of the Port Alberni site

    • We also have a narrated slideshow telling Quesnel's journey with the project through photos (9 minute video)


Connecting the Dots card

This card is one of the small legacies of the Connecting the Dots project and shares information about four traditional medicines and 11 tips for mental health.


Photovoice book and video

  • Read the Photovoice book - Photovoice was one method that the Kelowna site used to capture and caption stories of identity, belonging and well-being from Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society Youth Group

  • Watch the video from the Photovoice Exhibit Gala - Youth's photos and stories were showcased at a gala event that took place in 2012 and features interviews of Aboriginal youth, project coordinators and community members in Kelowna.


Related CMHA BC Programs and Resources

Outside of Connecting the Dots, there are three other programs that have focused on, or continue to focus on, well-being in Aboriginal settings.

Living Life to the Full

Living Life to the Full is an 8-session course that teaches skills to cope with life’s challenges. It is a resilience-building program for anyone—whether they’re currently facing mental health problems or not—and is taught in small groups using booklets and fun activities. Over 12 hours, it covers worry, depression, anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem. It teaches healthy thinking, problem-solving, confidence building—plus much more. The language is simple, friendly and free of any and all “mental health” jargon. The skills taught in the course are based on a proven approach called cognitive-behavioural therapy, and have been shown in various evaluations to result in statistically significant improvements in mental well-being, depression, anxiety as well as self-esteem, social relationships and ability to deal with stress. CMHA BC holds the national license to deliver the course in Canada. Since 2011, we have adapted and seen the course used in such diverse settings as workplaces, schools, on Aboriginal reserves, in faith communities, in prisons, in seniors’ centres, in residential treatment facilities, and even in group medical visits. Contact the program to find out about delivering the course to Aboriginal audiences.

Beyond the Blues: Education and Screening Days

Beyond the Blues: Education and Screening Days is an annual mental health awareness campaign coordinated by CMHA BC and the Centre for Addictions Research of BC on behalf of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information. Community events held across BC help thousands of people each year to learn the signs of depression and anxiety, and related issues like mania, suicide, risky drinking as well as elements of good mental health like social support and self-esteem. Beyond the Blues stresses the importance of resilience, connection, empowerment and early intervention. Events are held in diverse settings including Aboriginal communities (on and off reserve). Aboriginal service providers in BC are invited to take part in this project and receive free support. To learn more, or hear testimonials from Aboriginal event planners, see our final report and other resources on the Beyond the Blues web page.

Visions articles

Visions is an award-winning quarterly magazine written by and for people who have experienced mental health or substance use problems, family and friends, service providers, and decision-makers. CMHA BC produces Visions on behalf of the BC Partners. Relevant articles or volumes of Visions to Aboriginal mental health promotion include:


Resources from the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres

BCAAFC Indigenizing Outcomes Measurement (1.7 MB PDF)
The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centre has produced a report entitled “Indigenizing Outcomes Measurement” to help broaden knowledge and understanding toward the development of an Indigenous outcomes measurement framework in BC’s urban Aboriginal child and family services context.

BCAAFC A Path Forward (1.6 MB PDF)
A Path Forward: BC First Nations and Aboriginal People’s Mental Wellness and Substance Use is a 10 year tripartite plan developed in 2013 by the First Nations Health Authority, Province of BC, federal government, BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and the Metis Nation BC.


Recommended Provincial and National Resources

Indigenous Cultural Competency Training

The Provincial Health Services Authority offers three streams of online cultural competency training, designed to increase Aboriginal-specific knowledge, enhance self awareness and strengthen skills for any professional working directly or indirectly with Indigenous people:

  • Core Indigenous Cultural Competency Training - of particular interest to non-health professionals working in organizations such as justice, policing, child and family services, education, business and government.
  • Core ICC Health Training - designed for health authority, Ministry of Health, and other professionals working in the health care field. It includes the foundation provided in Core Training with an additional two modules that focus on health care issues
  • Core Indigenous Mental Health Training - uses the foundations in the Core Training, with an additional two modules that focus on mental health issues.

Canadian Best Practices Portal - Aboriginal Ways: Tried and True

Developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Aboriginal Ways Portal compiles links to credible resources and solutions to plan programs for promoting health and preventing ill-health in Aboriginal communities. Interventions posted on this site are based on best available evidence of successful public health interventions occurring in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. All interventions have been assessed using a culturally-relevant, inclusive, and validated framework.

Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research

An information centre for Aboriginal mental health research based at the Culture and Mental Health Research Unit (CMHRU) of the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.

Mental Health Programs for Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

This programs database describes existing mental health promotion, prevention and intervention programs and models for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The database was developed through a scan conducted for Health Canada.


*The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

**"urban" in this context means off-reserve