A newly launched app offers health and wellness help in Cree.
The app 'digitally tethers' clients to in-community nurses and mental health therapists.
It is geared toward enhancing health services, care and connection for those suffering from mental health issues, depression or addiction.
The First Nations-led program is a collaboration between Big River First Nation, The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN,) Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association (SFNVA), and Indigenous Services Canada.
Big River First Nation Chief Jack Rayne said the app gives health practitioners an early warning if a patient is at risk.
"Program participants receive regular reminders to check in the app and share information about how they are feeling and coping that day," Rayne said. "This information helps to identify early warnings, signs and risks before an event crisis."
The app is currently available in Cree and English and is already being used in 15 First Nations communities.
Jack MacBeth, CEO of app developer TryCycle Data Systems Inc., said health practitioners can customize the app to fit each patient's needs.
"The practitioner identifies if we're dealing with substance use, a mental health, a suicide or self-harm scenario," MacBeth said. "The practitioner identifies those modules, brings it into the app, and then we start harvesting that data in a very customized approach so that the practitioner has insights. We're looking at behavioural insights that allow us to kind of interpret if that person is at risk or not."
Rayne said distance and language can often be barriers for many First Nation people to get their health-care needs addressed.
"This app will remove those barriers and fill these gaps," said Rayne, adding the app incorporates traditional medicine and healing practices, alongside existing medical services and supports.
Steven Ross, Grand Chief of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association, said many of their members suffer post traumatic stress disorders and the app will help them.
"Our members have often shared stories of being post-war Indian residential school survivors and returning home with complex mental health problems," Ross said.
He said First Nations veterans are an often ignored group that suffers chronic, debilitating and escalating trauma, and needs access to crisis intervention and support.
"This project allows our participating veterans with PTSD issues who want to reach out for help have the assistance they need at their fingertips," Ross said.
"For some of our veterans, English is not their first language, and being able to speak to a nurse in their own language is a vital part of their care."
The app is available in the Apple store, but enrolment must be initiated by a health-care professional.