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.

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. Succesful 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. Policies and services that are more rigorously informed by the needs and priorities of diverse Indigenous youth

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

4. 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.

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.

 

Key Contacts:

Dr. Lindsay Crowshoe

Dr. Rita Henderson

Dr. Pamela Roach

Dr. Aleem Bharwani

Dr. Dianne Mosher

 

Project partners:

Michele Decottignies, Artistic Director, Stage Left Productions