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Can J Psychiatry. 2011 Feb;56(2):75-83.

From benzos to berries: treatment offered at an Aboriginal youth solvent abuse treatment centre relays the importance of culture.

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  • 1Department of Sociology and School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. colleen.dell@usask.ca

Abstract

First Nations and Inuit youth who abuse solvents are one of the most highly stigmatized substance-abusing groups in Canada. Drawing on a residential treatment response that is grounded in a culture-based model of resiliency, this article discusses the cultural implications for psychiatry's individualized approach to treating mental disorders. A systematic review of articles published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry during the past decade, augmented with a review of Canadian and international literature, revealed a gap in understanding and practice between Western psychiatric disorder-based and Aboriginal culture-based approaches to treatment and healing from substance abuse and mental disorders. Differing conceptualizations of mental health and substance abuse are discussed from Western psychiatric and Aboriginal worldviews, with a focus on connection to self, community, and political context. Applying an Aboriginal method of knowledge translation-storytelling-experiences from front-line workers in a youth solvent abuse treatment centre relay the difficulties with applying Western responses to Aboriginal healing. This lends to a discussion of how psychiatry can capitalize on the growing debate regarding the role of culture in the treatment of Aboriginal youth who abuse solvents. There is significant need for culturally competent psychiatric research specific to diagnosing and treating First Nations and Inuit youth who abuse substances, including solvents. Such understanding for front-line psychiatrists is necessary to improve practice. A health promotion perspective may be a valuable beginning point for attaining this understanding, as it situates psychiatry's approach to treating mental disorders within the etiology for Aboriginal Peoples.

PMID:
21333034
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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