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Kinship and Community: Stories of Rurality and Mental Wellness in Northern Alberta Open Access


Other title
Northern and Rural Psychology
Mental Health Perceptions
Cross-Cultural Psychology
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Friesen, Laura S
Supervisor and department
Yohani, S (Department of Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Wallace, K (Department of Educational Psychology)
Ellis, J (Department of Elementary Education)
Yohani, S (Department of Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology
Counselling Psychology
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Master of Education
Degree level
While nearly 20 percent of Canadians live in rural areas, many face barriers to accessing and accepting mental health services including cost, distance, stigma, lack of anonymity, lack of information, availability of services, and cultural differences. While a growing body of research explores ethics in rural mental health care, little research has focused on rurality as a cultural construct and how this influences experiences and perceptions of mental health care. To explore this further in my master’s thesis, I conducted a comparative case study of two cultural groups living in northern and isolated, rural Alberta, namely, Cree and Mennonites. Through attending to each community’s cultural protocol, seven participants were recruited by community contacts to participate in individual semi-structured interviews followed by individual member checks. Interviews were analyzed within constructivist and further, hermeneutic paradigms, following interpretive inquiry guidelines for analysis and evaluation. The findings suggest that while each group has their own unique within group experiences, there is a shared experience of rurality across groups impacting experiences, attitudes, and beliefs about mental health. These include the importance of community and belonging, responsibility to community, living in and relying on nature, and the fishbowl effect. In addition, the study also identified rural values and norms that may act as barriers to help-seeking, such as self-sufficiency and self-abnegation. This research has both scholarly and practical implications for researchers, students, and practitioners and is relevant for both rural and urban practitioners given that rural individuals frequently seek help outside of their communities due to lack of available services. The findings of this research support existing literature by stating that cultural sensitivity is required when working with rural populations.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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