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OISE welcomes new professor of Indigenous mental health

January 22, 2018
 

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Dr. Jeffrey Ansloos: "I am interested in finding creative ways of supporting mental health so that Indigenous people can experience healing, liberation, and wellness."

 

Dr. Jeffrey Paul Ansloos is the new Assistant Professor of Indigenous Mental Health at OISE's Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development. Born and raised in the heart of Treaty 1 Territory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Dr. Ansloos is a member of Fisher River Cree Nation.

As a registered psychologist, researcher, educator and policy advisor, Dr. Ansloos specializes in the areas of mental health, violence prevention, youth development, and Indigenous and human rights. He recently spoke to OISE News about his current research and commitment to Indigenous mental health and wellbeing. 

 

Welcome Dr. Ansloos! We’re very excited to have you on board. First question – what made you want to come OISE?

I chose OISE because I’m convinced of the positive impact the Institute can have on Indigenous peoples’ lives. The reason I am an educator and researcher is because I am committed to the promotion of life, vitality and wellbeing for Indigenous peoples. OISE seems like the perfect place to refine and deepen this commitment. For example, there is a growing Indigenous student community engaged in important and life-changing work, a compelling array of Indigenous community-led research projects, and a world-class faculty committed to issues of equity, justice, and social impact.

Toronto is another reason I came to OISE. The city is an incubator of creativity and innovation. I’m excited to live and work in the heart of this creative culture, and learn from and contribute to the many changes taking place here.


You’ve definitely come to the right place. What inspired your interest in Indigenous mental health? 

The most basic way of talking about what inspired my interest in Indigenous mental health is to say my own community. My community spans a number of geographic contexts, but my nation, Fisher River Cree Nation, is located in the Interlake Region of Manitoba. It is a community that has been through incredible challenges but is a community that embodies resilience and power. I have witnessed first-hand the hope and promise of a healthy and vibrant community life. As a psychologist, I am intrigued by how community life can nourish and sustain people through experiences of loss, trauma, suffering, and violence, and the ways that healing and wellness can be experienced through creative and collective social action.

On a broader scale, I believe that the settler-colonial inequities and injustices faced by Indigenous people are inextricably linked to issues of mental health. I am interested in finding creative ways of supporting mental health so that Indigenous people can experience healing, liberation, and wellness.


What are you working on now? Can you tell us about your current research and why it’s important?  

Broadly speaking, I am interested in the sociopolitical dimensions of Indigenous peoples’ mental health. What this means is that I attend to the individual, systemic and structural dynamics that intersect with issues of mental health facing Indigenous communities – such as suicide, community violence, and complex trauma. I’m interested in the ways that various social policies and domains of practice (i.e., criminal justice, housing, education) intersect with mental health.

Right now, I am looking at the ways Indigenous youth, adults, and communities are responding to these challenges, and how processes of cultural revitalization, personal and community formation and various social actions (i.e., digital activism) can promote mental health in the face of colonial and racial violence and economic apartheid. I draw on a number of different approaches to engage in this research, including qualitative, arts-based, policy, and social media research. 

Why’s all of this important? I want my family, especially the children and youth in my community, to thrive and experience the joys of life, unencumbered by the violence of colonialism. For this to happen, there needs to be concerted efforts towards dismantling oppressive systems, reforming mental health practices, and supporting the creative efforts of Indigenous communities as we seek to build a better future for ourselves and our loved ones.  


That’s really inspiring. I’m sure many students will be looking forward to learning with you. What courses are you teaching this year? How would you describe your approach to teaching and learning?

This year, I’ll be teaching Indigenous Healing in Counseling and Education, as well as Group Work in Psychotherapy and Counseling. 

I would describe my approach as, first and foremost, evolving. I really think each class and experience brings out something new. I try to ground the learning that takes place in the here and now, both inside and outside the classroom. I’d also say that I am committed to the idea of classrooms holding all of the potential of a community – and communities have power to change their society.

As an Indigenous educator, I also bring a configuration of my own cultural experiences and perspectives to the classroom and invite students to learn in ways that nourish relationality. That relationality sustains the work of decolonization and anti-oppressive practice. 


Moving from the classroom to the outside world, any idea how you might contribute to local communities here in Toronto and Ontario?

Interesting question. I don't have any definite answers on that yet, except for that I am deeply committed to using whatever platform or privilege I have in this role to further the wellbeing of and opportunities for Indigenous peoples in this city. I also believe that to be a positive influence in your city, you need to foster deep connections to your neighbourhood and learn about the complex social issues that are happening around you. So, I guess in this immediate season, I am going to be doing a lot of listening and learning from what is going on around me. 

In the midst of this extremely cold weather, one thing that has stood out is the crisis of housing in Toronto. In the last couple of weeks, there has been an immense shortage of shelter beds for those without access to housing. This has been an issue in every city I have lived in, be it Winnipeg, Vancouver, Victoria, Los Angeles or Boston. This week, I've been following the trail, trying to learn and understand what is happening in Toronto in regards to homelessness, and how the material displacement of Black, Indigenous and people of colour, and LGBTQ2S* youth is playing out in this city.  


Sounds like it’s going to be a busy year. What are you going to do in your downtime?  

I have a 5-year-old dog named June Carter-Cash (or more frequently referred to as Junebug) who keeps me busy and entertained. We go on lots of walks exploring the city. I’m also an avid hiker, and I look forward to hiking the hidden trails of Toronto.  


There are many great hiking trails in and around Toronto for you and Junebug to discover. Thanks for chatting with us Dr. Ansloos. Again, welcome to OISE