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Second mental wellness summit scheduled for Whitehorse

Summit scheduled for Sept. 21 to 23
Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

A three-day summit will bring together local, national and international mental wellness leaders and Yukoners with lived experience.

In a joint press release, the Yukon government and Council of Yukon First Nations announced they will co-host the 2022 Mental Wellness Summit from Sept. 21 to 23 at the Sternwheeler Hotel & Conference Centre and the Yukon Beringia Centre. The focus of the summit will be on the integration and innovation in mental wellness and substance use support.

Presentations will be held on prevention, treatment, support services, as well as harm reduction. The Yukon government and other organizations working in health will also provide updates on the response to the substance use health emergency that was declared in January.

The statement describes the three-day event as the second phase to the two-day online summit held in February.

“Phase two of the Mental Wellness Summit is continuing the important work with community partners to address problematic substance use and promote mental wellness across the territory,” Tracy-Anne McPhee, the territory’s minister of health and social services, said, pointing to work done to increase harm reduction, promote well-being, and ultimately save lives. “This summit represents a call to action for all Yukoners to play a role in helping create healthier, more inclusive communities.

“I look forward to hearing from leaders in this space, and people with lived experiences, on how we can continue this vital work to help support Yukoners struggling with substance use and mental health. I encourage all Yukoners to attend the public sessions and learn more about how they can contribute to creating stronger Yukon for everyone.”

While most in-person sessions throughout the three days are limited to invited guests only due to limited venue space, anyone can attend virtually by registering online.

There will be two in-person evening sessions open to the general public from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 21 and 22 at the Yukon Beringia Centre. The Sept. 21 evening event is entitled Oshkiniijig Leading the Way for Life Promotion while the Sept. 22 evening event is Mahi a Atua — A Journey Toward Freedom.

Other presentations that can be viewed virtually include Strengthening Connections with Our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters, Life Promotion and Suicide Prevention, and More Than Worry: Recognizing and Responding to Anxiety among others.

The final sessions on Sept. 23 will include an RCMP/Justice panel, update and overview on the substance use emergency, a community engagement session along with closing remarks from elder Dianne Smith, McPhee and CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston.

“The Council of Yukon First Nations is pleased to be working in partnership with Yukon government to host this Mental Wellness Summit,” Johnston said. “Having the right supports in place and ensuring access to service delivery for Yukoners wherever they live form part of the complex array of challenges associated with this crisis which has had a significant impact on Yukon First Nations and rural communities.

“These matters merit dedicated discussion and this summit is intended to provide the space to explore and discuss new approaches.”

More than 550 people signed on to attend the virtual summit held in February with the most heavily attended sessions focused on Indigenous-led approaches to healing, reconciliation and cultural considerations in mental health and the impact of culture-based interventions.

The government said perspectives coming out of the summit will be used as a new opioid action plan is drafted. The plan is set to be released later this year.

Those seeking mental wellness and substance use support can visit or call 867-456-3838 to connect with the clinical team. For opioid-use disorder support, Yukoners can contact Opioid Treatment Services at 867-668-2552. A referral is not needed to access services.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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