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#BreakTheChain Issue No. 3 Apr. 09 2020

COVID-19 Information for First Nations Community Mental Wellness and COVID-19 This is the second in a weekly series, prepared as a free informational tool by Bimaadzwin Inc. Updated as of April 9th, 2020

(Bloomberg via NewScientist)


– What is COVID-19 – and the ongoing outbreak.. – First Nations and COVID-19 – Flattening the Curve: Mohawks of Kahnawake – Holding Zero: The Case of Nunavut – How do pandemics effect our mental health?

In this Issue…

– Choosing Sources of Information – Self-Care and Resiliency – How to talk to your kids about COVID-19 – Caregiving in the era of COVID-19 – Coming Together Through Social Distancing – Resources Needed for First Nations – Additional Information…


– COVID-19 is the disease associated to the novel coronavirus that was discovered in late 2019. On March 11th, 2020 – the World Health Organization assessed the COVID-19 outbreak as a global health pandemic.

What is COVID-19?

– COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that impacts the lungs – and can be spread from person-to-person through droplets that leave an infected person when they cough or sneeze – and can stay alive on surfaces for an extended period of time. This is why it is critical to stay at least 2m (6ft) away from others, and to regularly wash your hands and disinfect surfaces that people often touch. – COVID-19 is a serious health threat – and the risk to Canadians is now considered high. The risk is different between and within communities, but there is an increasing number of cases in Canada. There is already a significant impact on our healthcare system – if we do not flatten the epidemic curve now, the increase of COVID-19 cases could impact the resources available to Canadians.


Ongoing COVID-19 Outbreak

– There have been over 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world, with over 80,000 deaths. In Canada, there are currently 18,447 confirmed cases– with 401 deaths across the country (April 8).

Cases: 04.08.2020

– Canada is now enforcing strict social distancing regulations. Anyone returning to Canada from abroad, or travelling between provinces must isolate at home for 14days – they cannot go to a grocery store, or out for a walk, and must have other deliver necessities to their home. Everyone else is encouraged to stay at home, and avoid all non-essential trips outside of their house. – All non-essential businesses are closed for the foreseeable future, and schools across the country appear to be closed for the rest of this school year. Airlines are reducing services into the early summer; and public transportation across Canada has adopted social distancing practices within their systems. Canada and the provinces have announced a series of support measures for people and businesses for the coming months. This is a challenging time for everyone. If you need to talk to someone – the Hope for Wellness Helpline (1-855-242-3310) is available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut. Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) is also available for those 5-29 years old.


– First Nations communities around the country continue to prepare for the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 global health pandemic – however, many remain concerned about the level of vulnerability faced by communities due to distances, access to necessary resources, and underlying health conditions that are common in First Nations communities.

First Nations and COVID-19

– Many leaders have taken proactive additional steps to protect their communities – including limiting access of non-residents to communities, and closing on-reserve businesses, often before other neighboring communities. However, current supports are not enough to ensure that all communities have enough resources and materials – and it might be too late to order and provide enough equipment to all First Nations in Canada. – Some remote First Nations have limited the number of flights and those travelling in- or out- of the community, and are encouraging members to take this time to live off the land, and minimize the supports required from the south. Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 35 cases of COVID onreserve in First Nation communities (as of April 6th) in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Québec. The first death on a First Nation was reported on April 8th, in Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario


– First Nations communities are finding unique ways to protect themselves, and to come together – while staying apart – during this COVID-19 global health pandemic. Québec has become one of the epicenters of the outbreak here in Canada – and Kahnawake, a Mohawk community in the Montréal region, finds itself in the middle of this outbreak.

Flattening the Curve: Mohawks of Kahnawake

– The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake initiated its COVID19 Task Force on March 16th, 2020 – shortly after the first positive cases were reported in the community. The task force provides daily video updates on the Kahnawake 911 Facebook page, and is able to coordinate response between various departments of the nation quickly and efficiently. Some measures implemented include closing all businesses to nonresidents; encouraging social distancing between members within the territory; and putting in place a drive-through testing facility at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre. – The steps taken by the task force are not taken to stop people within Kahnawake from going about their business – but to protect members from exposure by limiting the movement of outsiders into the community. This includes some communication initiatives to remind non-residents that cigarette stores are closed, and that there is no community access!


– The COVID-19 crisis has become a truly global pandemic – staring in central China in late 2019, to the World Health Organization tracking cases in 212 countries and territories worldwide. However, there remains one region where the crisis has yet to take hold – due in large part to the strong and timely reaction of an indigenous-led government.

Holding Zero: The Case of Nunavut

– Nunavut currently has zero confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19. On March 24th, 2020 the Government of Nunavut announced that only Nunavut residents and critical workers (identified by the territorial government and Inuit organizations) would be allowed to enter the territory – residents must prove residency before being allowed to fly to Nunavut. Residents will also undergo a mandatory 14-day isolation period at a hotel in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, or Yellowknife – and after the 14 days, asymptomatic residents are cleared and transported securely to their flight to Nunavut. – Nunavut continues to follow the situation closely, and is updating residents in the territory and elsewhere in Canada as the outbreak continues. Although there are no cases in the territory, the Government of Nunavut continues to prepare hospitals and healthcare staff across the territory.


How do Pandemics Effect our Mental Health? Advice provided by: (MHCC) Susan Mercer MSW, RSW Clinical Social Worker RSW at Onward Choices Consulting Inc Keith S. Dobson, PhD Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Calgary Past- President, Canadian Association of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies (2019- 2020) Consultant, Opening Minds Program, Mental Health Commission of Canada

– There are three big predictors of how stressful a particular situation is going to be: (1) how predictable it is, (2) how much we can control it, and (3) how important it is to us. With COVID-19, we find ourselves in a situation that checks all three – we don’t know a lot, have relatively weak controls, and it can be potentially lethal in the worst cases. So, right now, being worried and anxious is perfectly understandable. – As we’re being asked to constantly monitor our physical health (are we coughing? is that a sore throat? do we have a fever?) it’s easy to overlook our mental health. But in fact, it’s more important now than ever. Keep an eye on how you’re feeling or what might trigger negative responses. If news and social media are causing you to believe that everyone else is juggling competing demands better than you are, shut down the computer. If the news cycle is causing your stomach to clench, turn it off. If your kids are resisting a rigid routine, focus on manners and kindness, and forget the mess. Don’t try to fix everything right now. Pick one thing that isn’t sitting well with you and focus on that. – Sometimes, turning our thoughts to others is the best remedy. Humans are social animals, and we all need contact and support. Send a few “Hi, I was thinking about you” texts or emails. You might just find yourself feeling better as a result.


– In the midst of COVID-19 – it is becoming challenging to avoid the negative headlines and the bright-red colored news flashes. For many of us, staying informed is one of the ways to try to feel more in control of what is going on – even when much is still unknown and out of our control. – It’s normal to feel anxious in the face of a crisis. Our brains are continuously seeking new information to reassess out threat level. Unfortunately, if we overload out minds with COVID-19 details, headlines, and images, we reinforce a threat signal and perpetuate a stress response.

Choosing Sources of Information

– Where we seek information matters! Credible sources like the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization gives us plain facts without the sensationalism and imagery used in the news. When the media reports that infections are ‘skyrocketing’, it can trigger more anxiety than if they said ‘increasing’. If a particular source is being sensationalistic – consider avoiding that news outlet.

Remember – the more we receive information, the more it plays on our minds – try limiting your updates to one and three times per day. When it’s time to re-engage, it won’t take long to catch up!


– When life gets busy and out sense of balance and well-being is affected, we can sometimes forget to take care of ourselves – or, we look for quick fixes or solutions to challenges. Building self-care into your daily or weekly routine can greatly improve your resiliency and prevent feelings of burnout. – Create a self-care plan – read through the list, and identify the things that you think might be helpful and that you are willing to try. Pick a handful of strategies – many are interesting, but only focus on those you will have time to work on, and incorporate them into your routine.

Self-Care and Resiliency

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Write in a journal Volunteer for a cause meaningful to you Make a gratitude list Take a fresh air break o Meditate or listen to guided visualization Cuddle with pets Treat yourself to a nice meal Take a nap Listen to music Practice yoga Lay in the grass Photography Read a good book Write a blog Spend time outdoors, if possible Go for a drive Exercise Join an online social club Nutrition – increase healthy food choices

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Turn off electronic devices Have a movie marathon Play a game Dance Wear something that makes you feel confident Join an online support group Have a virtual game night with friends Work in the garden Get creative: draw, paint, write a song, or cook a new meal Try a new hobby Have an adventure day Creative arts Spend time with your children – read to them, listen to their laughter, play with them, etc. Create a poster with images of a positive vision Listen to enjoyable podcasts or videos


How to talk to your kids about COVID-19?

This time may be very challenging for children and adolescents, some of which might not fully understand the reason why their schools are suddenly closed, and why they can no longer go play on the nearby playground. In addition – they are likely also being bombarded with information through their social medias, or from their friends that can cause anxiety and alarm. Young people might also sense anxiety from their parents, and worry about their own health and that of other family members. For example, young children may not understand why they can no longer visit or hug a grandparent. Children need to be reassured in a way that is age appropriate: Acknowledge their fears Explain overall risks of getting the virus and what happens if they do get sick Outline the steps you are taking to keep them and yourself safe during this pandemic Reassure them that young children tend to get a mild form of the virus Discuss any questions they might have. For older kids: • Help your children become better consumers of health information. For example, if they ask you a question, help them identify credible online sources of information and to understand the information provided; • Help teens understand the importance of social distancing, and encourage them to socialize with friends through digital technology; • Encourage your kids not to share drinks, make up, or other personal items during this time.


– Although caring for a family member who is living with a mental or physical health problem or illness can be rewarding, it can also be tiring – and demanding work. As the COVID-19 pandemic sparks new concerns for everyone, caregivers have to contend with a variety of new challenges, on top of an already full plate. Here are some tips compiled by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Caregiving in the era of COVID-19

1. Accept that some things are out of your control - The sooner we accept the things we cannot control, the more energy we will have for the things we can. As a caregiver, this might mean accepting that your routine with the person you care for isn’t possible within the constraints of public health measures and finding a new, more flexible routine. 2. Expect some changes from your loved one - The combination of stress and uncertainty from the pandemic may mean that current mental health problems will worsen or new ones will form. Escalating symptoms, when coupled with personal fear or anxiety, could make caregiving much more challenging in the months to come. 3. Draw upon past resilience - Being a caregiver takes great resilience. Reflect on your journey thus far, and remind yourself what you’ve overcome to get to this point. While COVID-19 has caused unprecedented global disruption, it’s important to remember that, as a caregiver, this isn’t the first time you’ve had to adjust your routine. In fact, you’re probably more adaptable than most. 4. Make time for self-care - Self-care is non-negotiable for caregivers. Although, like many, you may be inclined to put your own needs last, you need to take care of yourself before you can effectively support another person. Whether that means walking in nature, sleeping in, listening to music, or anything else to improve your well-being, selfcare is integral to caring for someone else. 5. Reach out to fellow caregivers - No one understands the hardships of caregiving better than another caregiver. If you have other carers in your life, consider reaching out to them. Talk openly about how the coronavirus has affected your routine with your loved one, what your biggest concerns are, and anything you’ve found helpful so far. Listening to these things in return will not only create a reciprocal support system, it will also provide some of the human connection we could all use more of right now.


– Almost overnight, physical distancing has become part of the Canadian lexicon. By now, we all know we must distance ourselves from others to slow the spread of COVID-19. But physical separation does not have to diminish social connection.

Coming Together Through Social Distancing

– The closure of public events and gathering places also means fewer distractions. A text message exchange doesn’t have to exist only in stolen moments of calm between competing priorities — the conversation can be the priority. Parents who usually spend their evenings shuttling their kids to activities can use the pause to connect as a family or just catch up with each other. – Positive relationships can also be a welcome distraction from the troubling headlines. Learn more about a colleague, reach out to a relative you haven’t heard from in a while, reminisce about good times with old friends. When the period of self-isolation is over, the bonds we’ve built up will remain with us as we readjust to everyday life. – Right now, we’re facing a sobering reminder that life is fragile. But we’ve also been given the chance to take stock of our priorities and nurture the relationships that matter. Strengthening our social ties now will help us weather the storm and emerge more connected on the other side.


– There are many Indigenous leaders who have the knowledge of the resources and deficits in the communities. While we recognize that one approach will not meet the needs of all communities, we believe urgent intervention will be needed NOW to avert catastrophic consequences to many communities.

Resources Needed for First Nations Communities

– The federal government’s pledge of $315 million in pandemic assistance for all Indigenous Canadians is less than one-per cent of the $82 billion in funding assistance for mainstream Canadians. This is not acceptable. – Take a moment to check you a petition at https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-trudeau-more-resourcesfor-covid-19-for-indigenous-communities-urgentlyneeded?utm_source=grow_ca&utm_campaign=pss&use_react=false – The petition is aimed at urgently enhancing healthcare capacity in First Nation communities, and enhancing testing and outbreak control for COVID-19.


– Health Canada is the best source of information on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Their website has up-to-date information on the current cases, government response, and how to best protect yourself.

Stay Informed

https://www.canada.ca/en/publichealth/services/diseases/2019-novelcoronavirus-infection.html – Health Canada has also developed an app that includes updates, protection measures, and a self-assessment tool. Download their app from the iOS or Android App Stores.


Miigwetch This information has been brought to you as a free public service by:

The content of this presentation is for informational purposes only. Those who may have come into contact with COVID-19, or who have symptoms must self-isolate and call their health authority. This presentation was developed to assist First Nation citizens and governments in understanding and responding to the growing crisis. Information contained in this presentation is accurate as of April 9th, 2020.

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