McMaster students seek to understand Indigenous youth mental health

Posted on January 21st, 2017

When Neha Malhotra decided to study global health at McMaster, she pictured herself flying somewhere to address health disparities somewhere in the world.

But then a professor challenged a class she was in to think about disparities in Canada, especially focused on  Indigenous communities.

“I was taken aback,” she said.

Malhotra, now a third-year student, began learning about historical treatment of health issues in Indigenous communities, like the transportation of thousands of Inuit to places including Hamilton for tuberculosis treatment.

She saw the “violent acculturation and colonialism” showing up in health care, an institution “that is supposed to be equitable.”

And so she and a few others planned a conference last year to try to better understand Indigenous health issues. They’ll hold their second conference next Saturday, focused on mental health issues and the way Indigenous communities are affected.

“Mental health affects Indigenous communities in a different manner, and our treatment is often framed by a western biomedical approach,” she said. “Often we don’t consider how different people define mental health and what kinds of services they may want.”

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