A community-driven and evidence-based approach to developing mental wellness strategies in First Nations: a program protocol

Melody Morton Ninomiya*, Ningwakwe Priscilla George, Julie George, Renee Linklater, Julie Bull, Sara Plain, Kathryn Graham, Sharon Bernards, Laura Peach, Vicky Stergiopoulos, Paul Kurdyak, Gerald McKinley, Peter Donnelly, Samantha Wells

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mental health, substance use/addiction and violence (MSV) are important issues affecting the well-being of Indigenous People in Canada. This paper outlines the protocol for a research-to-action program called the Mental Wellness Program (MWP). The MWP aims to increase community capacity, promote relationship-building among communities, and close gaps in services through processes that place value on and supports Indigenous communities' rights to self-determination and control. The MWP involves collecting and using local data to develop and implement community-specific mental wellness strategies in five First Nations in Ontario.

Methods: The MWP has four key phases. Phase 1 (data collection) includes a community-wide survey to understand MSV issues, service needs and community strengths; in-depth interviews with individuals with lived experiences with MSV issues to understand, health system strengths, service gaps and challenges, as well as individual and community resilience factors; and focus groups with service providers to improve understanding of system weaknesses and strengths in addressing MSV. Phase 2 (review and synthesis) involves analysis of results from these local data sources and knowledge-sharing events to identify a priority area for strategic development based on local strengths and need. Phase 3 (participatory action research approach) involves community members, including persons with lived experience, working with the community and local service providers to develop, implement, and evaluate the MWP to address the selected priority area. Phase 4 (share) is focused on developing and implementing effective knowledge-sharing initiatives. Guidelines and models for building the MWP are shared regionally and provincially through forums, webinars, and social media, as well as cross-community mentoring.

Discussion: MWP uses local community data to address MSV challenges by building on community supports and resilience factors. Drawing on local data and each community's system of formal and informal supports, the program includes sharing exemplary knowledge-to-action models and wellness strategies developed by and for First Nations people that can be used by other First Nations to identify shared wellness priorities in each community, and determine and execute next steps in addressing areas of main concern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5
JournalResearch involvement and engagement
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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