Sgt. Kevin Redsky of the Anishinabek Police Service launched the Hope in the Darkness walk in honour of his niece, who died by suicide five years ago. (CBC) A cross-Canada journey by police officers and youth to shine a light on the issue of mental health will wrap up in Winnipeg Friday afternoon.
Teams of walkers set out from starting points on both the East and West coasts, walking toward the centre of the country. They’ll officially end the walk at Oodena Circle at The Forks in Winnipeg on Friday.
The project, dubbed Hope in the Darkness — Walk for Youth Mental Health, was launched by Kevin Redsky, a sergeant with the Anishinabek Police Service, an Ontario First Nations police force.
Redsky said the walk was partly inspired by the experience of losing his niece to suicide five years ago. She was in the care of Child and Family Services in Winnipeg at the time.
"As front-line workers we’re often seen at the hospital with the youth, while they’re in crisis. We’re first on scene, and we’re not confident that the systems that are currently in place are working," said Redsky, who walked a total of 4,500 kilometres and spoke at The Forks Friday morning.
"There’s a definite need. Our youth are screaming for help." Opportunity to build relationship
The East Coast walkers began at Cape Spear, near St. John’s, on April 1, while the West Coast walkers began in Old Massett in Haida Gwaii, B.C., on May 15.
The walk also serves to call attention to the issue of racism and the impact that has on youth, Redsky said.
"Racism is a huge issue in this country, and it’s evident. A lot of us around social media, we’ve been seeing the tangents going on on social media when it comes to racism. It just can’t be tolerated anymore. We have to think of our kids."
Anishinabek Police Service Chief John Syrette says he hopes the walk improves relationships between Indigenous youth and police.
"Police oftentimes in First Nations aren’t seen in a very good light, and so opportunities like this are valuable to try and rebuild some of those relationships that have become strained over the years," he said.
The walkers will make their final journey into the city from Bryce Park on Fermor Avenue at 3 p.m., arriving at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights at The Forks around 5 p.m.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, there is help out there. Contact the Manitoba Suicide Line toll-free at 1-877-435-7170 (1-877-HELP170) or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-688-6868.
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