Supporting women’s mental health in the Northwest Territories
The Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund is proud to support local organizations in communities from coast to coast to coast that are making a difference for women’s mental health.
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, we spoke with one of our 2020 Community Fund partners, YWCA Northwest Territories, who are working to increase access to mental health support for women across the territory. Through the Feeding our Spirit: Trauma Recovery & Support Program for Northern Women, YWCA NWT is using their Community Fund grant to hire and train an in-house mental health support worker to assist women struggling with trauma-related mental illness, the majority of whom are Indigenous. The initiative provides cultural programming such as beading and talking circles, and facilitates access to community mental health resources.
Learn more about the impact their program is having and take time today to celebrate the people and organizations in your community that are supporting Canadian women.
How is YWCA NWT’s Feeding our Spirit program supporting women in the territory during this unique time?
The COVID-19 crisis has caused unprecedented stress for women and families across the Northwest Territories. We are also seeing a higher number of women who are experiencing family violence, as well as high levels of food insecurity, and reaching out for support with their mental health. The Feeding our Spirit program helps women to heal from trauma and helps to reconnect women and their children to the land, by providing healing and wellness opportunities through traditional education to support women’s mental health and aid in their recovery journey.
During COVID-19, we had to make some modifications to our programs to ensure physical distancing and taking all precautions as advised by the territorial Public Health Officer. We were fortunate to still be able to deliver the program albeit in a slightly altered way. Through the program to date, we have been able to support about 40 women, and in some cases, their children, despite the pandemic.
Having culturally appropriate wellness activities is important to helping women build peer connections and deal with trauma. How is your project making those connections?
Reconnecting people to the land also reconnects them to their own sense of self and helps them to find their own voice, letting go of negative emotions and trauma through various traditional activities such as fire ceremonies, trauma sharing circles, beading circles and camping trips. Through these traditional activities community members and peers come together to identify shared values, to learn and practice ways of listening without judgment, build trusting connections, and to encourage one other.
How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted women’s mental health and how women are accessing supports and services in Yellowknife?
Women are often the primary caregivers in the household and many of our clients are single mothers. During COVID-19, many women also took on the role of teacher. Many women we work with are living on low incomes, experiencing food insecurity and have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced due to the pandemic. We have had higher numbers of women experiencing family violence and families are experiencing added stress and challenges. The YWCA NWT has a 24/7 crisis line, and more women are using phone services to access mental health supports. Our family support staff have been reaching out to provide support, food and household supplies to families who need it and to ensure they know they are not alone and support is available for them.
How is YWCA NWT celebrating International Women’s Day and Northern women?
We are taking part in the International Women’s Day 2021 social media theme, #ChooseToChallenge. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality, and seek out and celebrate women’s achievements to create an inclusive world. There are so many inspiring Northern women who choose to challenge stereotypes, leadership gaps in the workplace, and gender norms and we want to celebrate them every day.
To learn more about YWCA NWT’s work, visit www.ywcanwt.ca.
The 2021 Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund is accepting applications until March 15, 2021. Registered charities are encouraged to apply for a grant up to $25,000 to support local mental health programs. To learn more, or apply for a grant, visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.
To learn more about mental health projects that Bell Let’s Talk has supported, please visit our website.