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Hope in the Darkness aims to connect youth with mental health issues with the services they need, and improve relationships with police officers. Three long weeks of walking have given Mitchell Boulette a lot of time to reflect on a journey much more treacherous than the one he’s on now.

“I got the career I always wanted,” Boulette said. “It was hard for me to tell anyone the way I was feeling, because if I did, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to be a police officer anymore.”

14 years into his career as a Treaty Three police officer , Boulette knows he often meets people at their lowest point, but his struggles began after losing a cousin to suicide, and failing to revive a drowning man after more than an hour of CPR in quick succession.

“I continued to perform CPR on him until we met the ambulance,” He recalled. “They put all their instruments on him and pronounced him deceased. It was tough on me. After I was done dealing with that call I just walked off and started crying. It was the day before my birthday.”

With the childhood dream quickly turning into a nightmare, Boulette struggled to get help. He seriously contemplated suicide before a coworker took him to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with depression and PTSD. It took an eight-month leave from work and countless hours with a psychologist, but he soon felt himself grow stronger.

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That’s why he’s walking for Hope in the Darkness , joining other indigenous officers in a cross-Canada to encourage young people to reach out for help.

Boulette’s portion of the walk stretches from Lake Louise to Winnipeg. Along the way, he’s speaking at healing circles, community centres, and lending an ear to those who need one. His group has successfully put several youth in touch with counselors and other services, and even inspired some to join them on the road.

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The walk was founded by Anishinaabe police sergeant Kevin Redsky, with the Anishinabek Police Service of Shoal Lake #40 First Nation. After years of working with at-risk youth and missing persons cases, he personally felt the effects of mental health issues as well. He’s been trekking from Cape Spear, Newfoundland, to Winnipeg for the past 116 days.

“Just from the stories I’ve heard from the youth, anybody that’s been part of this walk, has really made me believe what we’re doing is for the better,”Boulette explained.

Beyond helping others, he’s found some healing for himself- especially when other police officers have joined him for long walks and long talks.

Boulette will cover 40 to 60 kilometres a day as he nears his goal of reaching Winnipeg by August 3rd. While he may hang up his runners afterward, he’ll continue to fight to help others, as he returns to his new role as Youth Mental Health Officer in an Ontario pilot project.

“In the two months we’ve had this position, we’ve had six youth reach out to us,”He noted. “That’s seven calls police would have been dealing with.”

Boulette’s road hasn’t been an easy one, and it’s certainly not over. While he still feels there’s a long way to go, he’s felt his spirit for policing return.

“I’m a member of the Bear Clan,” He said with a smile. “They’re protectors.”© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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