Yukon College Home News Archives Mental health training tackles issues specific to Northern people

Mental health training tackles issues specific to Northern people

September 29, 2017

WHITEHORSE—Through her job as a Crown Witness Coordinator for the Public Prosecution Service, Elisabeth Janus works with people who have experienced severe emotional trauma.

To better serve her clients, Janus signed up for Mental Health First Aid for Northern Peoples training through Yukon College’s Northern Institute of Social Justice.

“The training showed me what mental health issues can look like in my clients, co-workers, family or friends,” said Janus. “Things you might not expect, such as anger or changes in sleeping or eating, can be clues that something deeper is affecting them.”

The program is based on Mental Health First Aid offerings taught throughout Canada, but the content is augmented with a variety of stories, images, and examples that reflect the northern experience.

For example, the first module shows how geography can influence how mental health services are accessed in the North. Small remote communities may not have the resources to diagnose illness, the sick may have to travel long distances to get treatment, and people may feel stigmatized because of myths surrounding mental health issues.

“In addition to the set curriculum, the training also opens a dialogue for participants to discuss First Nations history and their experiences of living in the North, and how these things can impact mental health,” said counsellor and program instructor Kathleen Campbell. “I am there to facilitate a discussion so participants can also learn from each other."

This training is not intended to replace professional certification, but it can teach people new strategies to help in giving empathy and support to people who may be suffering, said counsellor and former program instructor Angela Neufeld.

“Many people don’t say anything because they’re worried about saying the wrong thing,” said Neufeld. “This course gives people information and basic skills so they can notice that something is wrong, and try to help.”

Yukon College is offering two opportunities to take Mental Health First Aid for Northern Peoples this term. The training is offered in partnership with Mental Health First Aid Canada.

Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada runs from October 1 to 7, 2017.