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The essential role of cultural safety in developing culturally-relevant prevention programming in First Nations communities: Lessons learned from a national evaluation of Mental Health First Aid First Nations

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Evaluation and Program Planning



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Mental Health First Aid is a population health approach that educates people to recognize and respond to mental health challenges. Since 2012, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has worked with six First Nations communities to develop a culturally-relevant version of the program called Mental Health First Aid First Nations (MHFAFN). This paper presents mixed methods, multi-informant data from a national evaluation to assess the extent to which the course was experienced as culturally safe by Indigenous participants, factors that contributed to these experiences, and ways in which cultural relevancy of MHFAFN can be improved. Our evaluation team conducted participant interviews and surveys, as well as facilitator interviews. Nearly all Indigenous participants (94.6%) experienced the course as safe. Participants and facilitators identified a range of factors that promoted cultural safety, including the knowledge and skills of the facilitators and the cultural components of the course. Participants that did not experience safety identified trauma-related factors and facilitation style. The findings suggest that MHFAFN may be situated in a way where shared cultural backgrounds are imperative to the success of the course. Further evaluation of the MHFAFN curriculum, with the goal of continual improvement, may help to further enhance participants’ experiences in taking the course.

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