30 Jul Kenora Rally – Hope in the darkness National Walk
As frontline workers and service providers in EMS, it’s a safe bet that we have all had some experience with youth regarding mental health issues. It is also safe to say that in many parts of our province accessing mental health services can be a lengthy process. This is especially true in the north and even more prevalent in First Nations Communities. In some of these communities there remains a crisis involving our youth, which is illustrated via “cluster suicides.”.
“The loss of human life through suicide is a tragic reality in First Nations and Inuit Communities. For the First Nations population, suicide rates are double the Canadian average but are higher in some communities. And 6-11 times the Canadian average in Inuit Communities, making it one of the highest suicide rates in the world”. (“Aboriginal People” issue of Visions Journal, 2008, 5 (1),pp. 6-7)
With this knowledge, how do we stand by and do nothing, allowing those numbers to continually rise? Today, with our greater understanding of mental health and the issues such as PTSD that affect so many in our industry, it is even more important to find better ways to help those struggling with mental health issues, including our youth. This is why it was so important for our service, Naotkamegwanning EMS, to be a part Hope in the Darkness.
On July 26th and 27th, Naotkamegwanning EMS had the privilege of providing an escort for the walkers. On the 26th, we were on hand to provide emergency medical services and first aid at the Kenora rally and physically demonstrate our support by walking in the national event.
Hope in the Darkness
“Intended to be a call to action for Indigenous and non-Indigenous police officers that have worked with youth in crisis, the walk will provide officers with an opportunity to meet with youth and listen to their stories along the way.” (Hopeinthedarknessca.wordpress.com) It has become so much more.
One team started on the east coast and the other on the west coast, averaging 40kms a day, with a plan to meet in the center of the country.
- To bring attention and raise awareness of youth mental health in Canada
- To provide a platform for Indigenous youth mental health success stories to be shared
- To rally active and retired police officers across the country to get involved in empowering youth
- To raise funds to support culture-based youth mental services across Canada
The Man and the Inspiration
This national walk is the “brainchild” of Sgt. Kevin Redsky, of the Anishinabek Police Service. He has been policing for 15 years giving him both professional and personal understanding of the issues at hand as his “niece died by suicide in 2013.” (Nick Melony –CBC News) Kevin has been very open with his struggles on both fronts.
Sgt. Kevin Redsky is originally from Shoal Lake #40, located in the northwestern corner of the province between Kenora and the Manitoba/Ontario boundary, an area that is part of Treaty #3 territory. He has lived and served in First Nations communities and has “worked with at-risk youth and missing persons cases and has personally felt the effects of youth mental health issues.” (hopeinthedarknessca.files.wordpress.package-2.pdf)
The Kenora Rally
The event contained several traditional ceremonies and was a pleasure to experience. The MC, Howard Copenace, did a fantastic job of ensuring everyone was included by explaining the significance of each ceremony or song and provided translation when necessary. We were honoured by the presence of the Grand Chief of Treaty #3 and the Mayor of Kenora, to name few. All of the speakers delivered powerful messages of hope, perseverance and change.
Description provided by Harmony Redsky
4 Matches – Starting a fire
1st match lit April first, EAST COAST START at the easternmost point of Canada- Cape Spear, St Johns NFLD (Starting the conversation- addressing the stigma)
2nd match lit WEST COAST START at the westernmost point of Canada in Haida Gwaii BC, May 15th. (MMIW) Missing and Murdered
Indigenous Women and Girls
3rd match lit THUNDER BAY ARRIVAL, July 13- (the youth experience with racism)
4th match will be lit Aug 3rd, Winnipeg Closing Ceremony, (youth at risk/child welfare)
It only takes one small flame to start a fire- one person can change the world.
Many have now been inspired to commit to making a change, however big or small, by this national walk. It could be seen by the diversity in the crowd. Individuals from many backgrounds, families, community groups, frontline workers (police, paramedic, mental health workers and youth support workers) and their leadership were present, officially and unofficially expressing their commitment and willingness to be a part of the solution. We can all do more.
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