HYBRID EVENT: You can participate in person at Baltimore, Maryland, USA or Virtually from your home or work.

5th Edition of Global Conference on

Addiction Medicine, Behavioral Health and Psychiatry

October 21-23, 2024 | Baltimore, Maryland, USA

GAB 2022

Sekwha: A community-based research approach to virtual mental health supports for Indigenous youth

Speaker at Addiction Medicine, Behavioral Health and Psychiatry 2022 - Rhonda Herman
La Loche, Saskatchewan, Canada
Title : Sekwha: A community-based research approach to virtual mental health supports for Indigenous youth


Although Indigenous Canadians represent only a fraction of the national population, the suicide rate of Indigenous youth is five to six times higher in comparison to non-Indigenous youth in Canada (Indigenous Suicide Prevention, 2020). These suicide statistics clearly indicate that the current approach to providing mental health care is not adequate. Our community-based team is dedicated to addressing the disparities in mental health care access and supports being experienced by Indigenous youth across the country by exploring for potential virtual reality (VR) technology within the services offered.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic researchers have been collaborating with students and staff at Dene High School in La Loche, SK for the past two years to explore innovative ways of supporting mental health and well-being of Indigenous youth. Through the perspectives of local youths, Elders, teachers, clinicians and community members, our team has identified shortcomings within the existing system, and uncovered the potential value of VR technology in improving access, quality, and the range of mental health support services.

Community-based research has proven to be highly effective in the development of mental health intervention and prevention programs that accurately capture the needs of Indigenous knowledge users. In co-developing and incorporating culturally congruent mental health services in partnership with Indigenous community members, we hope to fulfill the needs of and engage knowledge users to a higher degree than has been accomplished to date.

This project builds upon existing best-practices of utilizing VR as an intervention to improve mental health and wellbeing. By further enhancing VR interventions, our research will serve as a catalyst that pushes the boundaries of virtual presence in the domain of enhancing mental health and wellbeing.

This presentation will be co-presented by a local youth advisor, Libby Chartier and the project’s lead researcher, Lindsey Boechler. Together they will share their expertise within their field of study as well as through their lived experiences and diverse backgrounds. Libby brings great insight to the presentation that could not be acquired otherwise as she will share her lived experiences and how her experiences and knowledge ultimately enhances the design of the novel mental health and wellness resources being developed.

What will audience learn from your presentation?

  • Recognize the importance of partnerships when engaging in research with Indigenous communities 
  • Discuss the potential benefits of incorporating VR to enhance mental health care in rural and remote communities
  • Consider potential ways of integrating culture and tradition within innovative approaches to mental health care


Rhonda Herman is a community member of La Loche, Saskatchewan, Canada. Rhonda grew up in an abusive environment, causing mental trauma at a young age. She left her community, moving to the city at the young age of 17 where she completed her grade 12 education and gained employment. Rhonda took on life skill courses and training to help her understand the nature of her traumatic experiences. In 2019, Rhonda moved back home to La Loche to raise her children. Rhonda’s lived experiences have led her to seek new and innovative approaches to mental health care that challenge established practices through research.