A program called Hasadeendee, offered at the College of New Caledonia in Burns Lake, has been working to enhance the mental health of mother and father figures in the community.
Joni Conlon, Hasadeendee’s program planner, explained that Burns Lake already had a program designed for mothers with young children – the Healthier Babies Brighter Futures program. However, there was a need to include other family members such as aunts, uncles and grandparents in the support network. There was also a need for a group specifically for men.
“In most families, there are people that are providing parenting support but haven’t been able to access help in the community,” she said. “You can’t simply work with the mother, you have to work with the entire family.”
The Hasadeendee program is separated into two groups – men and women. Both groups have been meeting since December 2014.
Jay Finstad, program facilitator, said the program seeks to connect individuals to their culture and heritage in an effort to reduce substance abuse, domestic violence and create stronger families for children.
Participants connect through culture and language while enjoying activities such as drumming, snowshoeing and ice-fishing.
Joel West, program recruiter, said groups such as Hasadeendee can actually save someone’s life. West himself struggled with substance abuse for years.
“I had to quit [drugs] because the way I was going I would have been dead within a year,” he said.
West has been sober for over two years, and said that finding the support from the community was what eventually helped him make the choice to improve his life. Now he wants other people to have the same opportunity.
“I want people to know that they are not alone, so I share my story with everyone,” he said proudly.
According to West, the Hasadeendee program does not pressure participants to share their stories.
“We simply build trust by doing different activities together,” he said. “It’s all about creating a support network and giving people a chance to speak out.”
Finstad added that when participants realize that other people face similar struggles in life, it helps them connect with each other.
“We all have issues to some degree,” said Finstad. “Relationship is the key.”
Since the start of the program, an average of four to six men and five to eight women have attended the weekly meetings.
The Hasadeendee program is an initiative of the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society and the College of New Caledonia. The men’s group meet every Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the women’s group meet on Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The meetings are free of charge.
Anyone interested in participating in the program should contact the College of New Caledonia at 250-692-1700 and ask for Joni Conlon, Jay Finstad or Joel West.