Monday was the start of events for the Ontario Native Women’s Association Mental Health Week, and participants were welcomed with open arms.
“Todays' opening prayer and welcoming circle was truly an amazing experience. With over 960 views and participants from across Ontario it was a positive kick-off to ONWA's Mental Health Week campaign,” says Niemi Himes, mental health worker and the events lead liaison.
Audrey DeRoy guided the introductory circle hosted via Zoom and Facebook live and opened the circle up for sharing, leading to vulnerable honesty and conversation from participants.
“I would like to thank Al Hunter and Audrey DeRoy for opening and guiding our sharing circle, if it was not for their knowledge, wisdom, healing teachings and songs today's circle would not have been possible,” says Himes.
Michelle Solomon, a community development manager with ONWA, lead welcoming remarks saying, “We all have our levels of mental wellness – good days and bad days.”
Fighting mental health stigma
With six in 10 Indigenous persons reporting worsening mental health since the onset of the pandemic, these events couldn’t come at a better time, in the midst of what psychologists have coined the global psychological pandemic.
Mental health is starting to be prioritized regarding wellbeing and is more so now with communities facing drastic changes and learning to cope, specifically regarding their individual and communal wellbeing.
With a week of events to follow, this was a moment of stillness and a time to reflect, allowing participants the opportunity to share their Covid experiences and how they’ve been coping since we all walked into a new normal.
“The amount of courage that was displayed from our community when speaking of their experiences during this pandemic was truly powerful and was felt by all in attendance,” Himes notes, applauding everyone for willingly discussing the struggles we all face right now.
The week ahead
This afternoon Al Hunter will lead Grandfather Teachings – the Love and Importance of the Eagle Feather, beginning at 2 p.m EST and tomorrow Himes and DeRoy will lead a virtual medicine walk, inviting anyone to participate over Zoom and Facebook live.
While Mental Health Week is only one week, ONWA offers year-round services, monthly programming, and other initiatives to benefit the community.