The mental health of communities in the far north of Quebec is revealed in a different light thanks to the bright and caring eye of Karina Marceau, director of the documentary Voices in my head, which will be broadcast on Saturday as part of Doc Humanité. on broadcast from HERE TELE.
A friend introduced me to Dr. Marie-Eve Cotton, a transcultural psychiatrist, and when I understood the work she has been doing in the far north for 20 years, I knew immediately that I had to show it to people. People so that they allow them I understand, said Karina Marceau in an interview.
What does this branch of psychiatry offer that traditional practice does not? An understanding and knowledge of the values and beliefs that play a role in a patient's diagnosis.
“Since the sad story of Joyce Echaquan in 2020, we have known that care for certain communities is maladapted,” explains the director. Dr. Cotton is a very important figure in the story I am telling in the Far North because she has an important capacity for popularization, both for us and for the people she cares for there.
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Dr. Marie-Eve Cotton has been working as a transcultural psychiatrist in the Far North for 20 years.
Photo: Voices in my head / Radio-Canada
In psychiatry, a patient who hears voices is easily classified as schizophrenic, but in Dr. For Cotton's patient, we must take into account the communication she establishes through thoughts with beings, for example with a loved one who has died. Dr. Cotton manages to analyze all this by asking whether the voices are harmful or useful, whether they are intrusive, too numerous or rather benevolent, explains the director.
Light in the heart of cold
Psychological distress and the high suicide rate are often the only parameters that ordinary people remember when talking about mental health in the Far North. “It’s always catastrophic,” says Karina Marceau. And of course this is all terrible, but I thought it was important to approach the subject with a bright eye.
In doing so, she respectfully explains the resilience of the Inuit and highlights the qualities and knowledge of these peoples that have been passed down over many years. They have confidence in the future, she adds. Few places on the planet are so hostile, and yet their ancestors survived there as nomads.
The heartfelt cry that permeates the entire film is the importance of reviving traditions.
The knowledge of the indigenous peoples of the Far North is unique, particularly when it comes to mental health. When these people lived as nomads and met in groups, sometimes in igloos, one person's psychological suffering could affect everyone else, the documentary filmmaker says. Generally, an elder would set out alone on an ice floe to accompany the person who was unwell. We don't know what they said to each other, but the person only returned when he no longer posed a threat to himself and his loved ones.
Overall, the film highlights the need to empower the Inuit people. The studies cited in the documentary are clear: When people reclaim their institutions, their mental health will improve.
Focus on resilience
One of the important protagonists of the documentary “Voices in My Head” is a woman who talks about the suicide of her 17-year-old son. The first thing this woman did when her son took his own life was contact all of her boy's friends and tell them not to follow him, recalls Karina Marceau. She wanted to protect the community from another wave of suicides.
The area filmed by the documentary team is sublime, not to say majestic. “Soothing landscapes become symbols to illustrate everything that is happening inside,” says Karina Marceau. Mental health is difficult to convert into images. It was good work. We all enjoyed the bright April sun and the cobalt blue sky. We have done everything we can to represent the beauty of the place and the wisdom of the people who live there.
The documentary “Voices in My Head,” in which we follow psychiatrist Marie-Eve Cotton, will premiere on Saturday, January 20 at 10:30 p.m. EST on ICI TÉLÉ as part of Doc Humanité and on ICI TOU.TV .