More people are learning about, and using, a 24/7 crisis line for mental health and addiction support.
Issues of suicide and substance use have gotten worse in Indigenous communities since the COVID-19 pandemic started, said Nishnawbe Aski Nation's (NAN) COVID-19 Task Team chair and nurse practitioner Mae Katt.
“We’re seeing an increase in a number of conditions and I think we’re seeing mental health conditions and the severity of the conditions. And people who have medical conditions, who were once stable, are now starting to destabilize,” she said.
The NAN Hope program launched Aug. 10.
Funded by the Indigenous Services Canada, NAN Hope is in partnership with KO eHealth Telemedicine, Dalton Associates and Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority.
It is a community-driven program aimed at providing a confidential 24/7 crisis line, rapid access to clinical and mental health counselling, and connection to existing mental health and addiction support services.
The services are available to both on- and off-reserve NAN citizens from all 49 First Nation communities in the Nishnawbe Aski region.
So far, NAN Hope has served 71 individuals.
During the week of Oct. 12-18, wellness navigators had 11 new clients, with most being from professional referrals. According to NAN's weekly activity report, NAN Hope also received nine calls from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 10 calls from 4 p.m. to midnight.
“When we look at the time of day when people are calling, it’s pretty even between a day call and an evening call,” Katt said.
In September, there were 18 calls related to substance use, 14 calls asking for trauma support and 15 calls related to suicidal ideation and self-harm, Katt said. In addition, clients also called regarding family concerns, domestic violence and sexual assault.
“For the month of September, there were 120 client interactions, which for a program that just started on Aug. 10, you could tell people are becoming aware of NAN Hope and how it works,” Katt said. “We’ve also had a number of professionals calling the program to find out how they can use it to support the clients ... So professionals are starting to refer their clients."
Client interactions include inbound calls from people contacting NAN Hope, as well as outbound interactions when counsellors or navigators reach out to newly referred or existing clients.
"When they call, they become a client of this program, so it's ongoing care and contact with the caller," Katt said. "We're not looking for a high volume of calls. I think we're looking for callers who can then engage in the depth of counselling required to be able to give some kind of safety and stability."
The program is available in three traditional dialects: Cree, Ojibwe and OjiCree. Counsellors are also able to provide traditional healing.
“Anyone who answers the call has the ability to respond in one of the dialects. And if it’s not a dialect that the caller is requesting, then they can do navigation to that dialect,” Katt said. “That’s one of the nice features is that there’s no wait time when you reach out for help.”
One of the challenges is ensuring clients have access to talk to the counsellors, Katt said.
“It’d be nice to be able to provide cellphones, we can’t do that, but we might be able to give SIM cards to help people purchase the time that they need to talk to the counsellors,” she said.
The weekly report states some of the upcoming NAN Hope’s projects include creating the NAN Hope Governance Council, providing a training and on-boarding to counsellors on how to offer text-based counselling, continuing to build on the wellness navigation and counselling teams, developing an evaluation strategy for NAN Hope and continuing to connect with regional and community-based services across the NAN region.
NAN Hope services can be accessed by calling a toll-free number at 1-844-NAN-HOPE (626-4673), using a live web chat or sending a text through the nanhope.ca website.