Queen's University

Symposium to honour Aboriginal mental health pioneer


The life and research of Canada’s first psychiatrist of Aboriginal ancestry will be celebrated at Queen’s this weekend.

Clare Brant, who earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Queen’s in 1965, was a pioneer in the field of Aboriginal mental health.

“Dr. Brant did a lot of writing and talking about comparisons between Aboriginal rules of behaviour and ethics and Western society in order to create an understanding of Aboriginal mental health issues,” says Janice Hill, director of Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre (FDASC).

Following his medical education and training, Dr. Brant practiced general medicine in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory until 1974 before moving to London, Ontario, to complete his psychiatry residency. He returned to Tyendinaga several years later and established a clinical practice. He also wrote, lectured and consulted on Aboriginal mental health issues and helped establish the Native Mental Health Association of Canada.

“We hope that by honouring Dr. Brant, we will encourage others to pick up where he left off in his research,” says Nelson Alisappi, a second-year Health Studies student and an organizer of the 12th annual Symposium in Indigenous Research.

Dr. Brant made a substantial contribution to the field up until his death in 1995, but there are many areas of Aboriginal mental health that must still be explored.

“In the circles that I have travelled, there appears to be a prevalence of mental illnesses but we may not fully comprehend the diagnoses on Aboriginal people because cultural aspects are neither understood nor taken into consideration,” says Ms Hill.

This year’s symposium, entitled Power of the Good Mind, will allow researchers and members of the Turtle Island communities to openly discuss the issues. Organizers also hope to create a network within the Aboriginal community that can work on improving Aboriginal mental health.

Excerpts from Dr. Brant’s seminal work, Native Ethics and Rules of Behaviour, will be read during a break and an honour song will be performed for him. Organizers also plan to have a poster of his research on display.

Symposium details can be found on the FDASC website.

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Last updated at 8:46 am EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
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