infant and early mental health promotion

Natural Helpers for the Children - Learning Circle logo

Natural Helpers for the Children Learning Circle


Recognizing that early experiences of children, aged birth to six, are critically important for their development and wellbeing, and in particular for the child’s mental health (i.e., social-emotional development), the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Chiefs partnered with IEMHP to create resources that promote early mental health, prevent risk for those who are known to be vulnerable for poor mental health, and provide supports for young children who are experiencing poor mental health. One of the resources that will assist with these goals is a tailored training program, designed specifically for NAN community members: The Natural Helpers for the Children Learning Circle.


Natural Helpers infigraphics: - Title: NAN infant and early mental health training - At the centre: Circle divided in 4 quadrants numbered (clockwise) 1 (top left quadrants) to 4 (Bottom right quadrant) - Quadrant 1: Invite community members - All interested community members are invited to participate in the free training (students, elders, parents, caregivers, community members) - Quandrant 2: Introduce Infant and Early Mental Health - Participants learn about the many ways mental health development in infants and young children can be strengthened and supported by family, caregivers and the community. - QUadrant 3: Connecting to Indigenous ways of being and knowing - Participants are supported to make cultural connections to what they are learning while reflecting on their history, culture and community. - Quadrant 4: Reflect and take ction - Participants reflect on what they have learned and consider actions they can take to support infants, children nd families in thgeir community.

The Natural Helpers for the Children Learning Circle (Natural Helpers) was designed with a broad audience in mind. Parents, caregivers, extended family, professionals, students, and any other interested community members were invited to participate in the project. Natural Helpers is a series of conversations with participants that aim to increase knowledge and skill in the area of infant and early mental health while also building community capacity and understanding about the importance of the early years. The project includes a collection of pre-recorded videos, online documents, and in-person/hybrid sharing circles co-delivered by Indigenous community leaders and non-Indigenous infant and early mental health experts.

Natural Helpers includes 8 modules:

  • Module 1: Natural Helpers for the Children Learning Circle Introduction 
  • Module 2: Making Connections 
  • Module 3: Our Path as Indigenous People 
  • Module 4: Resiliency in Indigenous Communities 
  • Module 5: Gifts from the Creator 
  • Module 6: Local Services that Support Young Children and their Families 
  • Module 7: What All Children Need to Thrive 
  • Module 8: Reflection and the Path Forward

A Natural Helpers pilot was delivered October to December 2022 in Moose Factory and Moosonee, ON.


The Natural Helpers for the Children Learning Circle pilot started with an in-person celebratory launch in Moose Factory where key partners, community representatives, and pilot participants all gathered for a meal and valuable discussion about the project and about the children and families it hopes to support along the way.

Participants were invited to partake in their own unique learning journey over the course of 8 weeks, as they:

  • viewed videos and other resources related to infant and early mental health, 
  • engaged in weekly discussion sessions facilitated by content experts, community members and an Elder, 
  • completed a personal reflection activity after each session, and 
  • had the opportunity to watch, listen, learn, share, and reflect throughout the duration of the program.

Participants were invited to provide expressions of their experience as participants to the pilot circle. The words are represented on a shape matching the Natural Helpers logo. The bigger words include Helpers, Love, Kind, Hope, Heart, Real, Son, Story, Present, Family, Listener, Honest, Resilient, Learning, Support and Play.

Discussions are currently underway as the pilot is evaluated and plans for future sites are considered.

Interested in learning more?

To learn more about the Natural Helpers for the Children Learning Circle program, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Infant and Early Mental Health Promotion
The Hospital for Sick Children

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