News / Ottawa

Laureen Harper tours mental health clinic at Aboriginal health centre

It’s been nearly two years since the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Vanier received a $15,000 grant from Bell’s Let’s Talk Community Fund and – like most not profit organizations – it is looking for donations to help a growing Aboriginal population.

As a prelude to Bell Let’s Talk Day, Wabano invited Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to tour the facility on Monday learn how the 2012 funding from Bell helped Aboriginal youth. Bell said it will donate five cents to mental health initiatives for every text message sent and mobile and long distance made by a subscriber on Tuesday.

Mental health, particularly among youth, is a concern for the Aboriginal community, officials at the centre said. Wabano's mental health director, Dr. Marianna Shturman, led a study in 2012 and 2013 of more than 300 Aboriginal youth in the Champlain area.

He study found that Aboriginal youth reported higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse than their non-Aboriginal peers. 

Allison Fisher, Wabano’s executive director, said the $15,000 grant had a “tremendous” impact on the youth who were reconnected with their roots on their ancestral communities. Youth were removed from city life and participated in camping and canoeing trips as well as igloo building tutorials.

“They’re not connected in the city,” said Fisher. “They need a place like Wabano to support them through their school years.”

Carlie Chase, Wabano's director of initiatives, said those culturally relevant activities helped because they provided self-esteem and sense of belonging, and allowed them to make better choices in their lives.

But with a waiting list of about one to three months, the centre is hoping people will raise awareness about mental health services and participate in Bell’s campaign.

"The small shift that Bell is initiating, and other corporations, really makes a difference.," she said.

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