Improving youth mental wellness services in an Indigenous context in Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories: ACCESS Open Minds Project

Early Interv Psychiatry. 2019 Jun;13 Suppl 1(Suppl Suppl 1):35-41. doi: 10.1111/eip.12816.


Aim: To describe a community-specific and culturally coherent approach to youth mental health services in a small and remote northern Indigenous community in Canada's Northwest Territories, under the framework of ACCESS Open Minds (ACCESS OM), a pan-Canadian youth mental health research and evaluation network.

Methods: As 1 of the 14 Canadian communities participating in a 5-year, federally funded service transformation and evaluation project, the arctic Inuit community of Ulukhaktok has undertaken culturally relevant adjustments in their delivery of youth mental wellness services and related community wellness initiatives. These enhancement activities highlight connections to culture and traditional skills, honour youth- and community-expressed desires to incorporate Inuvialuit-specific approaches to wellness, and strengthen the support systems to improve access to mainstream mental healthcare, when needed. The adaptation of a Lay Health Worker model from Global Mental Health to the local circumstances resulting in creation of lay community health workers is central to this approach in meeting contextual needs.

Results: Community leaders identified key activities for sustainable change, including human capital development, authentic collaboration and diversified engagement strategies. Building around five ACCESS OM objectives, the local site team in Ulukhaktok has identified its youth programming and mental wellness service gaps through an ongoing process of community mapping.

Conclusions: Information from service providers, youth and other community members demonstrates attuning of the ACCESS OM framework to Inuit paradigms in Ulukhaktok. It could prove to be a sustainable prototype for delivering youth mental health services in other communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and possibly across the entire Inuit Nunangat. It needs, however, to be further supported by easier access to specialized mental health services when needed.

Keywords: Canada; Indigenous; Inuit; culture; lay health worker; youth mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Child
  • Community Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration
  • Culturally Competent Care / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Health Services, Indigenous / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Inuit / psychology*
  • Male
  • Northwest Territories
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • Young Adult