Creating a shared language is key to advancing change in mental health

We know that good mental health helps us enjoy our life and the people in it. But this past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on many people in Calgary and the surrounding area.

In a recent poll, 50 per cent of Calgarians reported feeling depressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that you, your family members, friends, or neighbors may be struggling with mental health issues for the first time.

Dr. Reg Crowshoe, a Piikani Blackfoot Elder, integral leader for Calgary, and trusted advisor to United Way of Calgary and Area, joined us for a virtual session in January to discuss mental health from an Indigenous perspective, drawing parallels to Western ways.

Speaking from an oral understanding, Dr. Crowshoe talked about how language can act as a divider between cultures that are ultimately having similar discussions. When discussing mental health issues, Indigenous culture may refer to “ghosts,” while Western culture may refer to “traumas.” Despite the difference in words being associated with mental health, the meaning behind the words is the same.

Dr. Crowshoe asks important questions: How can Indigenous elders work with Western mental health specialists to develop a cross-cultural understanding? How can we find parallels between our two cultures so we can take on the challenge of mental health together as a community?

Learn more about an Indigenous perspective on mental health:

By working together to bridge the cultural gap, we can create meaningful change in the mental health landscape in Calgary and area. United, we make the biggest difference! #BeUnited

Find support

If you or someone you know needs support to navigate this challenging time, please know that resources are available. For immediate help with mental health, please call Distress Centre, Calgary’s 24-hour crisis line, at 403-266-HELP (4357). For non-urgent assistance, 211 is available 24/7 by phone, text, or online chat—simply dial 211, text “INFO” to 211, or visit (211 is a free, confidential service made possible by United Way of Calgary and Area.) Find more supports for individuals here.