Members from numerous southern Alberta RCMP detachments and other police services are joining Sgt. Kevin Redsky of the the Anishinabek Police Service in his Hope In The Darkness Walk For Youth Mental Health Awareness.
“It’s a challenge really, to police officers to stand up for our youth,” Redsky explained. “Considering the youth suicide crisis in this country, and with everything that’s going on especially now with COVID(-19) — the anxiety of going back to school.”
Redsky is walking 30 kilometres a day from Winnipeg to Vancouver, and made a special stop in Lethbridge and on the Blood Reserve on Thursday.
Tyler Orr, an officer with the Blood Tribe Police, says mental health issues among children and teens is something he has regular experience with in his work.
“There’s a lot more people that understand. There’s a lot more people who have been through it and have family members that have had struggles,” Orr said. “So if there’s kids that are going through things, just know that they’re not the first, they’re not the last and there’s people they can talk to. There’s resources.”
In a statement to Global News, Alberta Health Services said parents should take care to check in with their kids about anxiety heading back to school this year:
“Parents and other trusted adults play a major role in helping kids understand what’s going on around them in a safe, honest and accurate way,” AHS said. “Letting your kids know that you’re there for them, checking with them regularly to ask how they’re doing and providing calm, honest responses to their questions may help minimize their fears and anxieties as they return to school this fall.
“Accept their feelings without judging and let them know it’s OK if they’re sad or scared about COVID-19. Emotions come and go. In most cases, these feelings do not last long.
“Show them healthy ways to deal with stress, such as active living, meditation, regular sleep and healthy eating. They will learn how to deal with stress by watching and copying what you do—meaning it’s important that you also take care of your own health.
“Focus on how they can protect themselves and others from getting sick, such as proper mask wearing, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow, thorough and regular hand washing and staying home when sick.”
Orr said the community’s support of his 30-kilometre leg of the trip has been deeply moving — with pledges for his walk going to Redsky’s initiative.
“I expected maybe $200 and we’re up over $3,500 now,” Orr said.
Thursday marks Day 51 of the trip, which Redsky says isn’t the first walk he’s done for awareness.
Redsky hopes to continue engaging police members with conversations about youth mental health all the way through to B.C.
“We’re out here literally walking the talk,” he laughed.
With sore feet and a full heart, he expects to reach Vancouver on Oct. 12.