On October 19, 2012, everyone at Talk4Healing was anxiously awaiting our first phone call. We knew that having the opportunity to make a difference in just one woman’s life would justify the journey it took to establish the service.
Two years later, Talk4Healing has received 4,395 phone calls from Aboriginal women living from the Manitoba border to the Muskokas. This week we are celebrating not only Talk4Healing’s second anniversary, but also the 4,395 opportunities we’ve had to make a difference.
With compassion and knowledge, Talk4Healing has provided women one-on-one guidance through issues concerning addiction, parenting, abuse, depression and much more. Throughout these hardships, an overwhelming 61% of our callers have identified that they are simply looking for someone to talk to; someone to listen to their story.
This is a very powerful statistic, and one that resonates deeply throughout Talk4Healing. The values of human connection and cultural understanding have driven our unique service for the last two years, and our counsellors embody these values. As Aboriginal women themselves, many from remote communities, our counsellors can relate to the issues our callers want to discuss.
While this perspective has helped thousands of women through difficult situations, those same women have also positively influenced our counsellors as shining examples of strength and courage.
To honour our second anniversary, it is our pleasure share one counsellor’s* experience at Talk4Healing.
*name has been omitted for confidentiality.
Why did you choose to be a part of Talk4Healing - what's your story?
I’ve been working with Aboriginal peoples for a long time - I first started out working at an alcohol and drug abuse treatment centre. From there, I went to children, youth, and then adults. Basically I’ve always worked in a mental health field. When I moved to Thunder Bay I wanted to help people…[Talk4Healing has] opened up my ability to help more people, not just in the community but in the region.
What inspired you to get into the mental health field?
Being a troubled teenager. The people that helped me really inspired me. I’m originally from a small remote community so I wanted to help the people that went through what I went through.
How long have you been a Talk4Healing counselor?
Since we launched - so for the last two years.
What do you feel makes Talk4Healing a unique service?
It’s anonymous. It’s great that people can just phone and talk about any issue they’re going through. The conversation goes how the client wants it to - we help the needs of the caller based on their questions and concerns like life skills or parenting.
Our callers seek out their own answers; we just guide them to find their answers by listening to them. Most of the time it’s the caller doing the talking…and just wanting to vent, so we’re here to listen. It could be about anything, from communication issues with their partner to financial troubles. We encourage callers to call again and most of them do.
If there are programs in their areas, we can connect them with those programs or services they need long-term.
Have you received support and positive feedback from communities who utilize Talk4Healing?
The people we’ve reached are happy but I feel like we can target more communities. A lot of women are very strong and independent and seek their own strength but I think they need to know it’s ok to call and vent. Sometimes people just need reassurance and encouragement that they’re doing the right thing - it doesn’t mean they’re weak.
What are the most rewarding aspects of working with Talk4Healing clients?
When callers are going through a really tough time and talking it through and I’m listening to them, it brings great rewards because sometimes that person just wants to give up. And you’re able to help them in a way where they feel like, “I can do this, I can go on.” It makes me feel good. And they call again and they have their spirit back in their voice and they’re like, “I’m doing well,” or “I started school.” We’ve had a lot of calls like that lately.
What have you learned by helping Aboriginal women on their journey to healing?
I’ve been able to learn about different cultures and the different areas we service. I speak Oji-Cree, and sometimes someone will call who speaks Oji-Cree or a different dialect and I can understand what they’re saying and also what they’re going through. It’s a lot of learning - languages and the people that I talk to teach me about life.
Coming from a small community I can relate to a lot of the things that they’re struggling with, like the lack of resources.
What do you want potential Talk4Healing clients to know?
All the ladies at Talk4Healing are great people. No question you have is stupid. Its unique - just pick up the phone and call, just try it! I’d like to hear from a lot more women.