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Wisdom: Coming together virtually

As Mental Health Week continues, Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is using their platform to share and connect.
Ontario Native Women’s Association is using its platform to share and connect.

COVID-19 has brought on many challenges that have forced us to adapt. One of the challenges is facing mental health without the distractions the world gave us before it all began.

On Thursday, the Ontario Native Women’s Association hosted a virtual COVID-19 Experience Montage that allowed anyone to share their struggles and what they’ve learned over the past year.

Niemi Himes and Audrey DeRoy hosted the montage and gave beautiful welcoming statements and then opened the (virtual) floor for anyone to share how they’ve been feeling and coping.

“Rather than saying I can’t, let’s look at what we can do,” Himes said during her opening talk.

Checking in during COVID-19

The pandemic has brought drastic and incredible changes to everyone’s lives, specifically the Indigenous community.

With 61 per cent of Indigenous persons rating their mental health as “somewhat worse” or “much worse” since the onset of physical distancing, ONWA is allowing individuals to share and connect, giving everyone a place to stand together in a world that has forced us to stay away from each other.

“We want to see each other. We want to hug each other. We want to share our homes. We want to be with each other and celebrate [and] we want to comfort each other,” Himes said, pointing out the importance of staying connected, even if it is only virtual right now.

Coping and connecting

COVID-19 has forced us to evaluate what choices we’re making and how that affects us and our families and this includes how we cope with negative mental health.

“As Indigenous people we’re go, go, go. That’s intergenerational trauma… we always feel like we must keep moving and it’s good, it’s like the water, but like the river it can be slow and gentle or rough and turbulent,” DeRoy said, telling us to flow with the water and to keep moving forward but to do it with mindfulness and to slow down when we need to.

DeRoy and Himes emphasized the moments we have felt connected and happy and where those took place and what brings us happiness when the world is difficult.

“When you’re hurting, think about the land, think about your childhood, think about all those places that brought you comfort in your life,” DeRoy said.

The vulnerability we feel within ourselves is something that can be difficult to express and the events ONWA has hosted and continues to host throughout the week are allowing people in the community to openly share the experiences and feelings they might otherwise stay silent about.

ONWA’s events continue Friday with Feeding our Spirits – Indigenous Traditional Food and Open Fire Cooking with Audrey DeRoy at 2 p.m. EST. Registration is open to everyone and can be done through and can be found on ONWA’s Facebook page.

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