Lindsey Boechler, Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Can you describe your area of research and how it is helping address a health-related issue in Saskatchewan?
We have built a team in partnership with Dene High School in La Loche to explore ways of integrating virtual reality technology within the mental health and wellness supports available to Indigenous youth residing in rural and remote communities. The aim of this project is to explore community needs, develop community-centred mental health resources and evaluate the impact of the novel interventions.
What is the most rewarding aspects of your work?
Working with community members is the most rewarding aspect of this work. I have learned so much along the way as they are the true experts. I am very appreciative of people’s willingness to share to their experiences and work together to create something that has never been done before. I believe that co-created, patient-directed virtual interventions hold great promise for enhancing accessibility to care for youth in rural and remote communities. I also believe this project presents a great opportunity to move beyond Western medicine practices and integrate traditional healing knowledge within mental health and wellness practices.
What is the most challenging aspects of your work?
Although it is extremely fulfilling, working with community members is also the most challenging aspect of this work. Covid-19 has thrown many curve balls our way and restrictions have made it difficult to visit La Loche and interact with community members as much as we would like. This has created some delays in our study’s progression but with some patience and persistence, I am confident the outcomes will be worth the effort.
How did you first become interested in this area of research? What inspires you to do the work that you do?
I credit the time I spent practicing as a paramedic in northern communities with igniting my passion for research in this area. Witnessing the barriers and inequities to accessing mental health care in rural and remote communities left me yearning to uncover innovative approaches to care that support youth in accessing to culturally connected mental health and wellness resources no matter where they live.
Where is your research headed in the next five years?
In the next five years we will focus on this project’s scalability by establishing and trialing a transferable framework that can be adapted and utilized across multiple rural and remote communities of varying Indigenous cultures. This approach will ensure that the virtual mental health resources being developed are meeting the diverse needs of the communities they are being offered. The ultimate goal is to scale-up the proposed virtual mental health resources to meet the needs of Indigenous adolescents residing in rural and remote communities across Canada.
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