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The annual Wellness Walk took place in downtown Yellowknife on Monday to kick off National Addictions Awareness Week.

Roughly 75 people, comprising Tree of Peace staff, Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD) from St. Patrick High School, the Sir John Franklin School Magnanimous Advocates Generating Mental Health Awareness (MAGMA) group and the Foster Family Coalition’s Globe Program took part in the march.

From left, Ryder Wicks and Nicole Lawlor, of Magnanimous Advocates Generating Mental Health Awareness of Sir John Franklin High School carry a banner during the Wellness March on Monday.
photos courtesy of Denise Hurley

Christina Moore, Indigenous youth worker at the Tree of Peace, explained that this year the Nov. 22-28 addictions awareness week will be focus on youth wellness. Elycia Monaghan, a youth senate member at the Tree of Peace and a nursing student, will lead a Youth Rising event on Thursday that will include presentations by wellness workers and discuss the negative impacts of addictions and vaping and ending in a sharing circle. 

“Our goal this year is to really support youth affected by addictions and connect in a supportive way,” Moore said.  

Denise Hurley, MAGMA teacher supervisor, works with 17 students to promote mental health awareness among the student population.

Hurley said it has been a unique year for students to carry out activities because of pandemic public health rules, she said. 

“At the end of last year we managed to host a virtual coffee house and it was really successful,” Hurley said. “This year we weren’t able to meet in person at first. Our grade 10 to 12 students are half days and for those members it was really difficult to stay after lunch or come early. We had to do Zoom meetings and some couldn’t get home for Zoom or would be home to Zoom and it was just really difficult.”

From left, St. Patrick High School’s Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD) group, and Sir John Franklin High School’s Magnanimous Advocates Generating Mental Health Awareness (MAGMA) group take part in the Wellness March on Monday.

Since then, though, the group has been able to meet regularly after they received approvals.

They have already put together colouring sheets at the front of the school with a mental health theme and are also looking at sharing “Merry Mental Health (candy) Grams” with positive messaging in December. In January, they are planning a “Smash the Stigma” event that includes building snowman on school property with mental health stigmatized words followed by a smashing of the snowman.

From left, Jimena Maule, Riley Hans, Morgan Noseworthy, Georgia Ridgley and Lacey Taylor take part in the Wellness March at Tom Eagle Memorial Hall on Monday.

Michele Thoms, teacher adviser for SADD at St. Patrick High School, said that her group had had 23 people involved in the annual walk and typically has had between 20 to 40 people taking part yearly since the event started.

“It is important every year,” she said. “Our mandate is to save lives and there is a direct co-relation between mental health and addictions and vice-versa.

“Being a Catholic school and from a social justice point of view, it is also an important topic and supporting mental health and addictions and problems with impaired driving is a number one priority.”

Thoms said similar to MAGMA, her group is having difficulty meeting and is facing challenges, particularly at this time of year, in assisting holiday parties with coat checks and drive homes across the city.

“Organizations and businesses often have parties, often at hotels mostly as most events take place at  the Chateau Nova or Explorer,” Thoms said. “Coat checks and drive homes this year are decimated because people can’t gather and that is unfortunate because those activities help to our spread message.”

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Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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