Eskasoni First Nation's transformation of youth mental healthcare: Partnership between a Mi'kmaq community and the ACCESS Open Minds research project in implementing innovative practice and service evaluation

Early Interv Psychiatry. 2019 Jun;13 Suppl 1(Suppl Suppl 1):42-47. doi: 10.1111/eip.12817.


Aim: ACCESS Open Minds (ACCESS OM) is a pan-Canadian project aimed at improving youth mental healthcare. This paper describes implementation of the ACCESS OM objectives for youth mental health service transformation within a pre-existing Fish Net Model of transformative youth mental healthcare service in the First Nation community of Eskasoni, on Canada's east coast.

Methods: We describe an adaptation of the ACCESS OM service transformation objectives through the complementary blending of Indigenous and Western methodologies. This concept of "Two-Eyed Seeing" is illustrated as central to engaging youth in the community and attending to their mental health needs and wellness.

Results: The ACCESS OM Eskasoni First Nation Youth Space acts as a central location for the site team and its activities, which expand into the rest of the community to facilitate early identification of youth in need. Rapid access to care is promoted via barrier-free availability through a central intake crisis and referral centre, and ease of contact through social media and other modalities. Youth are given the choice between standard Western mental health services, or Indigenous methods of improving well-being, or a combination of the two.

Conclusions: The ACCESS OM framework has shown early results of being a positive addition to the Eskasoni community. Local leadership and community buy-in are identified as key factors to success. Further exploration, research, and evaluation of this transformation is ongoing. Successful implementation of this model in Eskasoni could act as a model for youth mental health programmes in other First Nations across Canada.

Keywords: Canada; Indigenous community mental health services; community participation; health promotion; suicide; youth mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Community Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Community Participation
  • Female
  • Health Plan Implementation / organization & administration
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / organization & administration
  • Health Services, Indigenous / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Indigenous Peoples / psychology*
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Nova Scotia
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Young Adult