A national initiative to support young people with mental health challenges recently travelled through the Ktunaxa’s traditional territory in southeastern B.C. when schools, youth groups, Indigenous communities, mental health services and families were able to join the cause and participate in a community event.

Hope in the Darkness Walk for Youth Mental Health encourages participants to call for action to support communities from a social-emotional wellbeing perspective to empower youth with a message about remaining hopeful during crisis.

Hope in the Darkness founder Kevin Redsky created the event in 2018 after experiencing a personal tragedy, while working with youth in crisis, and struggling with mental health challenges as a young adult. Now, he’s optimistic about supporting others and taking immediate steps with the intention of providing support by taking action to raise awareness about mental health.

“I think the visual perception (of the walk) is to challenge police officers across the nation to participate in the walk,” said Redsky, a lapsed Royal Mounted Canadian Police (RCMP) member. “We all know right now about the struggling relationships between communities and police officers, and the perception of police officers and youth is that youth has a perception that police are only out there to arrest my parents or me. We’ve had police participation right from Winnipeg. We’ve had all but three days (of this year’s event) with a police presence.”

Redsky’s 90-day journey began in Winnipeg, M.B., on July 15, and he expects to complete this year’s walk on Oct. 12 upon arriving in Vancouver.

The event’s name was inspired by a song entitled “Ghosts that we knew” written by Mumford and Sons through a partnership with the performers from the band.

Between Sept. 9 and 19, Redsky passed through communities in the East Kootenay region of B.C. to raise awareness about the importance of mental health for youth on a national scale.

“In police, we’re often first on-scene,” explained Redsky about his unique experiences in a personal and professional context. “The systems are failing. We’re challenging organizations. We need to better improve our support services, so our youth can create all the help that they can get. Everything is not working for our youth, so we need more help for our frontline workers to really attack the issues our youth are facing.”

After his niece committed suicide in eastern Canada during 2018, Redsky began this walk after resigning as an RCMP member for 16 years to focus on normalizing conversations about mental health for everyone.

“I’m focusing my energy on this walk to raise awareness for youth mental health,” he stated.

The Ktunaxa’s traditional territory recently hosted a leg of Hope in the Darkness Walk for participants to join the walk in southeastern B.C. communities in the Kootenay region.

“We had a community visit in Sparwood yesterday and one in Fernie today,” he said on Sept. 10. “We reach out to communities up ahead of us to participate in any way. With COVID-19, not too many people are accepting visitors from outside, but the opportunity and the invite are always there. Monte actually walked with me for about seven-and-a-half kilometres this morning.”

Roughly 35 people joined the walk from Coleman to Sparwood on Sept. 8, including Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Const. Monte Webb, who serves as the Indigenous liaison for the Ktunaxa. Const. Webb had served as an escort to the walk between Sept. 8 and later joined him again to walk again on Sept. 10.

To learn more about the journey or to read Redsky’s daily blog, please visit: https://hopeinthedarknessca.wordpress.com/