By Lethbridge Herald on September 2, 2020.
Since its inception in 2018, Hope in the Darkness has been walking the talk for youth mental health.
Having lost two family members to suicide, Hope in the Darkness founder and former police officer Kevin Redsky has walked through his share of darkness as well.
But he’s bringing a message of hope across Canada.
On Wednesday morning, the Hope in the Darkness Walk For Youth Mental Health trekked through the city with assistance from the Coaldale RCMP and Lethbridge Police Service on a walk that began in Winnipeg July 15 and is headed to Vancouver.
“It’s a 90-day journey, we just passed the halfway point,” said Redsky. “We’re enjoying our time here in Alberta. We have a couple more days to go and then we hit the B.C. border. We’ve enjoyed the support and the policing this morning, we’re going to have a huge police presence. We’re literally walking the talk when it comes to youth mental health. We couldn’t be happier with the support when it comes to police involvement.”
The Hope in the Darkness Walk For Mental Youth began in 2018 when two teams walked from the farthest eastern and western points in Canada.
“We met in Winnipeg at the Human Rights Museum where we celebrated our youth,” said Redsky, who worked on Shoal Lake Number 40 First Nation in Ontario. “The whole point of the walk is for a message of hope and empowerment. So the challenge that we created to all police officers was to stand up for our youth and give them a platform. We all know the huge number of suicides in this country, it’s a crisis. So youth need a voice, they’re calling for help, hence the challenge and we’ve been doing really well with it.”
Seven years ago Redsky lost his niece to suicide.
“Witnessing all the frustrations at the hospitals and the lack of resources, we understand and applaud the services that are giving it all 100 per cent, but they’re just running short. They’re worn out. More needs to be done and we’re happy with the feedback we’re getting and we’re making some progress here, which makes us really happy.”
The 2018 walk from Newfoundland to Winnipeg took 125 days and arrived on Aug. 2 of that year.
Redsky planned on completing the walk in 2019 until his youngest sister committed suicide last summer.
“So it put us on hiatus for a year,” he said. “But it drove us even more that we had to complete the walk and continue the message that there is hope. We are all impacted in life, be it with your co-worker, family members, students, anybody. We’re all impacted by it. It’s so important to be aware and let’s not jump on the wagon when we’re personally impacted. We should all be focusing on mental health.”
Members of the Coaldale RCMP and LPS were on hand to assist with the walk to ensure it went safely through to Kipp Wednesday. The walk continues on to Fort Macleod today and continues on to British Columbia.
In addition to keeping walkers safe, Coaldale RCMP staff sergeant Glenn Henry said the officers have also participated in the walk and received its message.
“I walked with him for about nine kilometres (Tuesday) and it’s nice to just quiet down a bit and listen to some different perspectives and some of the experiences he’s had,” Henry said. “It’s a good time just to reflect on things. But I guess it’s different for everybody and certainly it’s something all police services have to be aware of, that this is a fairly high-stress job and we do have some instances where our people need help and it’s a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness, to get help. There’s a good message there, too.”
Henry noted plenty of issues currently taking place, including COVID-19 and the stress of students returning to school amid the pandemic.
“I think, not to compete with issues, but just to make sure we don’t forget we have youth out there struggling and they need help. It’s cliche, but our youth is our future and we need to make sure we have a healthy future, so we need to have healthy youth.”
LPS Const. Jamie Kenyon said he and his colleagues witness people’s mental health struggles on the job.
“Mental health impacts all of us and (Redsky’s) cause with youth is very important to raise awareness to that. As police officers we see a lot of effects of people in mental crisis and through that any awareness or any research or any good cause we’re looking to assist any way we can.”
Redsky said the message is that it’s OK to talk.
“I’m 44 years old and I’ve come to realize that in the last couple of years that’s great to share to get it off your shoulders,” he said. “I know many of us in the policing community are struggling ourselves. So it’s important for us to challenge the police, let’s do this for our youth, but at the same time let’s do it for the police as well. We have a common goal that we want to create those relationships. The numbers when it comes to police officer suicides in this country is huge as well. So let’s work together with a common goal for healthy minds and healthy relationships.”
For more information and to read daily blogs, visit http://www.hopeinthedarkness.ca.
“You can check out our roots,” said Redsky. “We welcome virtual sessions to show everybody what we’re doing out here. (We do) community walks. We understand with COVID there are so many restrictions, but we get by with what we’re doing and we just love community engagements. So we’re looking forward to our walk in Lethbridge (Wednesday).”
— With files from Ian Martens
Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter