Healing the Generations: Post-Traumatic Stress and the Health Status of Aboriginal Populations in Canada

// // Posted in Vol 2 Issue 1

Terry L. Mitchell, PhD, C. Psych., Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario

Dawn T. Maracle, MA, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Ontario


The enduring impact of colonization and loss of culture are identified as critical health issues for Aboriginal populations. The authors discuss the concepts of historical and intergenerational trauma identifying steps to address the past as Aboriginal Peoples move forward to a healthy future. The authors analyze the enduring and unacceptable health inequalities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. This paper emphasizes the importance of addressing the substantial historical reasons for this inequality. The authors suggest that current popular explanations for such gross differences in health are limited and lack substantive historical perspective. Post-traumatic stress disorder is discussed critically as an important concept for understanding Aboriginal health inequalities. Post-traumatic stress response, versus disorder, is presented as a less stigmatizing and potentially culturally-appropriate framework to view the inequalities in a historical and political light. A historically and politically-based stress response is proposed as a framework for understanding the health inequities between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal people to advance healing for indigenous people worldwide.

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