Interrupting Toxic Stress in Indigenous Youth

Building a Knowledge Exchange Platform

A civil society forum held by the Interrupting Toxic Stress: A Social Congress for Indigenous Health project in 2018, identified that Indigenous youth voices need to lead the work aimed at developing policies, services, and health interventions that support them. Building a Knowledge Exchange Platform aims to enhance Indigenous youth capacity to understand, articulate, and address toxic stress as well as to influence policy and services affecting their wellness.

Youth are experts in the experience of risk and protective factors that significantly shape their well-being, although they are seldom invited or empowered to influence decision-making promoting community wellness. This initiative aims to address that barrier by incorporating a Youth Advisory Circle (YAC) to provide direction to the development, implementation and evaluation of Interrupting Toxic Stress (ITS). 

ITS seeks to gather and share knowledge on how Indigenous youth can best attain a critical understanding of social traumas resulting in toxic stress, as key to building life-long strengths and resilience. Developing a knowledge exchange platform will enable health literacy interventions to be contextually grounded in protective cultural Ways of Knowing and in addressing causation related to inequity, injustice, and racism.

With a focus on Indigenous approaches to criticality, this project will review, summarize and mobilize key literature addressing toxic stress through arts, activity and culture-based programming, evaluation and research innovations. Successful interventions to mitigate toxic stress are essential to improving health and promoting opportunity.

 

Project outcomes:

1. Strengthened leadership capacity and advocacy networks among Indigenous youth with regards to wellness

2. Increased knowledge of diverse explanatory models for interrupting toxic stress across all stakeholder groups from Indigenous youth to policy makers and

3. Exploring and sharing approaches for enhanced coping, resilience and wellness of Indigenous youth including effective skills and approaches that interrupt the cause and impacts of toxic stress within their proximal environments.

 

What is toxic stress?

Toxic stress is a term increasingly used across the health and social sciences to describe adverse life experiences that can influence brain architecture and capacity to endure in the face of hardship. Toxic stress has negative lifelong impacts on health, including increasing one's susceptibility to non-communicable diseases even years after the original stress, with a particular impact on chronic disease and negative mental health outcomes.

The burden of toxic stress is a significant consequence of social determinants (e.g., poverty, trauma, stigma) that drive health disparities in Indigenous communities. This in turn weakens Indigenous civil society’s capacity to support those members experiencing a compounding of life adversities caused by social and structural circumstances, which are often beyond any individual’s control.

Initiative Team

Dr. Lindsay Crowshoe
Dr. Rita Henderson
Dr. Pamela Roach
Dr. Aleem Bharwani
Dr. Dianne Mosher
Kate Dunn
 

Initiative Partner

Michele Decottignies, Artistic Director, Stage Left Productions