“Our spirit is like a fire”: Conceptualizing intersections of mental health, wellness, and spirituality with Indigenous youth leaders across Canada



Indigenous youth, Indigenous health, Indigenous mental health, Spirituality, life promotion, Social determinants of health, Indigenous youth services


Indigenous youth in Canada experience adverse health outcomes at disproportionate rates to their non-Indigenous peers. The impacts of colonial efforts maintain the dispossession of Indigenous peoples from land, language, community, culture, identity, and other socio-cultural resources necessary to promote wellbeing.  High rates of suicide among Indigenous youth in Canada, and its lasting impacts, speaks to the need for culturally relevant mental health promotion and healing. To better support mental health and wellness for many Indigenous people, it is important to understand how it is intimately connected to spirituality. There is scant research that has considered how Indigenous young people conceptualize mental health and wellbeing, particularly at the intersection of spirituality. Central to addressing the persisting mental health inequities experienced by Indigenous youth in Canada, is the vital importance of involving Indigenous youth in framing these efforts; however, this involvement is desperately lacking. This study presents findings from research with a group of 15 Indigenous youth leaders working in community health, suicide prevention and mental health organizations across Canada to understand how they are conceptualizing mental health and its intersection with spirituality. Through a thematic analysis of qualitative interviews with these young people, we consider themes related to how Indigenous young people conceptualize mental health and the intersection of spirituality, and challenges and barrier to promoting Indigenous youth mental health and wellbeing.


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