It’s being described as a monumental step in the right direction.
That’s the sentiment from Chief Jack Rayne of Big River First Nation at the launch of a new app that speaks to mental health in the language of First Nations communities.
Rayne says that Indigenous communities are moving ahead with securing the help that they need.
“First Nations communities are historically and disproportionately affected by trauma, depression,
suicide and substance use and our families are no longer prepared to wait.”
The Big River First Nation, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association (SFNVA), and Indigenous Services Canada are all on board. Indigenous Services Canada gave the FSIN $125,000 to pilot the app in several communities, according to a department spokesperson. Since April 2021, the app has been in use in some 15 communities.
TryCycle Data Systems is the technology company that has spearheaded the development of the app. CEO John MacBeth details the work of the last 12 years, describing it as “an amazing journey'” where they visited communities in five provinces, three territories and four American states.
MacBeth recognizes that for thousands of years, Indigenous people have been health and technology innovators.
“Western medicine has a lot to learn from Indigenous people. We are very grateful for the chance to work among these incredible communities, so we can all benefit from the old and the new ways. We are thrilled with this ambitious vision to re-imagine the relationship between traditional healing and modern methods.”
The new app is available in Cree and English with the scope to add more languages in the future. Saskatchewan First Nations Veteran Association Grand Chief Steven Ross is in support of the app’s usage saying that many of their members are dealing with PTSD as post-war or Indian residential school survivors.
“This project allows our participating veterans with PTSD issues, who want to reach out for help to have the assistance they need at their fingertips.”
FSIN Vice-Chief Heather Bear, who also heads the Saskatchewan First Nations Women’s Commission addressed the benefit that she sees the app will make, especially where resources are hard to access in remote areas.
“I live in my own nation in Ochapowace and not being able to have those resources at our fingertips is challenging. We still continue the struggles, the isolation, especially with addictions. I think this tool is really going to help to support the holistic healing.”
TryCycle CEO MacBeth senses the significance of a First Nations-led development that assists in the health and wellness of people in their own language.
“You cannot have culture without language, you cannot have language without culture. Being able to provide this in a culturally sensitive way is paramount to any type of future success.”
The app is available in the Apple store and Google Play, however, users need to be enrolled with a referral from a healthcare professional.