Worklife and Mental Health for
Aboriginal Youth
E. Anne Marshall, University of Victoria
Suzanne L. Stewart, University of Toronto
Jennifer Coverdale, University of Victoria
Payden Spowart, University of Victoria
Jackie Leblanc, University of Victoria
Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Association
Calgary, Alberta
May 27, 2012
Contact: <[email protected]>
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The Challenge:
Employment rates for Indigenous youth
 In the 15-24 year old category, unemployment rates are 3
times higher for Aboriginal young people
 The rate of unemployment for First Nations living on
reserve is 23.1%; almost double compared to those living off
reserve at 12.3%
 In 2010, 45% of Aboriginal youth were attending school
 Mental health difficulties affect about one in five youth and
young adults (20%); the rate is higher for at-risk and
Indigenous populations (30 - 60%)
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Walking in Multiple Worlds
 Nationally funded research/development project
 Two sites: Toronto, ON and Victoria, BC
 Our question: “What are the supports, challenges, and
obstacles experienced by Aboriginal youth and young
adults in finding and keeping work?”
 Community partners
 Group and individual interviews
 Story maps and Possible Selves maps
 Community Workshops and knowledge sharing
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Group Interview Themes
 Four meta-themes
 Work Experience

“I handed out tons of resumes but I’ve only worked for my Band in the
summer student program...no one else called me back”
 Relations

“Yeah, my Uncle called me up and said, ‘I got a job for you’ and I took it.”
 Culture

“Our culture is nonstop. You’re hearing it, you’re seeing it, you’re
experiencing it.”
 Education

“the program had the cultural catch that I needed in order to feel really
sound and to really feel like I was here.”
 Mental health, confidence, and self-efficacy impacts
described throughout the interviews
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Individual Interview Themes
 Work experience
 Indigenous culture
 Family and relational support systems
 Community connections
 Discrimination and oppression
 Ignorance
 Mental health and well being throughout
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Implications
 Support youth to transition from community based
student and/or band-supported employment
programs into the work world
 Teach young people to identify and translate skills
learned in community cultural service and volunteer
work into job skills for their resumes
 Recognize the relations who facilitate these young
peoples’ work life journey
 Offer education and career programming that is
grounded in Indigenous values, beliefs & practices
 EDUCATE non-Indigenous population
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Practical tools & approaches
 Talking circles
 Elders, mentors, and community champions
 Community events & training
 Story Maps
 Possible Selves Mapping Process (PSMP)
 Guiding Circles (McCormick et al)
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Story Maps – Toronto team
 Relational strategies and resources are
grounded in social values and life
contexts
 Historical and community focus
 Follow oral traditions
 Represent values & strengths
 Provide on-going records
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Possible Selves – Victoria team
 Possible Selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986) is a future-
oriented and personalized form of self-concept which
provides a link between self-concept and motivation
 Include positive hoped for and negative feared future
images of self
 Are based on a number of salient factors: family and
community, socio-cultural and historical experiences,
interests, abilities, and media influences
 Become important motivators for behaviours
Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41, 954 – 969.
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Seven Steps in the Possible Selves
Mapping Process (PSMP)
1. Create a Possible Selves Brainstorm Map. Brainstorm
hoped for and feared possible selves (on a brainstorm
map or paper)
2. Group and name the hoped for and feared selves
3. Debrief the brainstorm map
4. Identify most wanted hoped for selves and feared selves,
plus most likely feared & hoped-for selves (if time)
5. Transfer brainstorm information to the overview map
6. “Things to do right now.” Explore and identify specific
steps to achieve hopes and avoid fears. Include others
7. Overall impressions and next steps
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Possible Selves Map (young man, 27)
Hoped for Selves
Feared Selves
PhD. –
Indigenous
Studies
Clinical Social
Worker / Related
helping field
Stuck in a dead
end job
Living and
working away
from the Island
Working with
children of
residential school
survivors
Working within
my own
community
No Indigenous
aspect to my
work
Homeless /
Broke
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Most hoped
for....
Relations
Most likely. Feared self...
Most feared...
Most likely. Hoped-for self...
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Worklife and Mental Health for Aboriginal Youth