(ANNews) – Today, more than ever First Nations people suffer in silence with the ongoing battle against stigmas that affect their lives and mental health daily.
Three Indigenous Health organizations: First Peoples Wellness Circle, Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, and the First Nations Health Managers Association have partnered with NationTalk to create the Soar Above Stigma Campaign. This campaign champions Kindness, Acceptance, Culture and Compassion for First Nations peoples across Turtle Island. The campaign has been created with the intention of easing the tension of stigma due to fears surrounding Covid-19, along with escalating mental health issues, and substance abuse due to addictions. By sharing Indigenous voices and perspectives the campaign aims to propel Indigenous values of hope, belonging, meaning, and purpose. Together, these organizations formed the Soar Above Stigma campaign to support our communities when they need it most.
Research shows that when we are isolated, we experience more depression, anxiety, loneliness and physical ailments than when we are surrounded by a caring community. Many individuals avoid seeking treatment or support with managing mental health or addictions due to fear of being discriminated against and stigmatized. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have all had to follow self-isolation protocols, creating a larger gap between the shame that silences us and the love and support from the people in our lives. This shame makes us more susceptible to stigma from individuals in our communities, the campaign seeks to address these issues at a grassroots level.
Social distancing measures have forced many of us to live a large portion of our lives virtually and with so much uncertainty, it is no wonder there is unfiltered fear, anger and misinformation being shared on social media and other platforms. Unfortunately, living with mental illness or addictions increases your vulnerability to the health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, including loss of social connection, greater anxiety, fear, and isolation, creating a vicious cycle.
So, what happens when one in three Indigenous peoples face challenges with mental wellness?
The most serious consequence has been an increase in mortality of Indigenous peoples during the Covid-19 pandemic, including death by suicide. This is an agonizing fact. No one deserves to be shamed into dying alone. Soar Above Stigma unites First Nations across the nation by recognizing that we truly need each other in order to alleviate the challenges we are facing.
By sharing stories, interviews, images and videos of brave First Nations that have battled with mental illnesses and substance use disorders, Soar Above Stigma shatters the shame that fuels stigma. It’s never easy to share your story and it is a privilege to have the opportunity to listen to another’s story. How do we demonstrate Kindness, Acceptance, Culture and Compassion to each other in order to prime ourselves for stories that will make us wiser? Soar Above Stigma reminds us that we are not alone.
The campaign steers Indigenous communities to consider the ways that finding meaning, belonging, purpose and hope heals trauma and allows us to listen and be listened to. Sharing the stories of Serenity, Audrey, Harvey and Chevi is deeply rewarding because they shed light into a dark place and having a dark place makes us human. By coming together with others and taking care of spirit through our connection to the land and our cultural teachings and traditional medicines, we recover. We heal. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The heroes who share their stories in the Soar Above Stigma inspire and empower us to speak up against stigma in our communities and take care of ourselves and each other.
The campaign outreach team will work with Indigenous media partners nationally to use radio and TV commercials, and print advertising to support the messages. There will also be an extensive social media and digital campaign with the #soarabovestigma. The website can be found here: soarabovestigma.ca.