Hannah Taneton says there’s a disconnect between people calling for youth input and the effort in getting that input.
“We noticed that every time people talk about youth, they always say they should get involved,” she says. “But no one is really reaching out to the youth and asking them to join.”
Taneton is the youth and wellness coordinator for the Sahtú Renewable Resources Board (SRRB), a position she’s held since June. A big part of her job is to get the Sahtú Youth Network up and running again.
About five years ago, the SRRB created the network to ensure youth had a voice when it came to research in the Sahtú.
Now Taneton is working to make connections between youth across the region once again, but with a different focus: mental health.
“A lot of us are hurt and don’t know how to cope,” says Taneton.
To start the conversation, the SRRB is planning a youth gathering in Tulita next week. Youth from all Sahtú communities will come together to discuss mental health, wellness, traditional healing and culture.
There will also be some cooking, activities with elders and even a volleyball tournament, along with presentations from Dene Nahjo, Hands On Media, Jennie Vandermeer and Deneni Natse on cultural and wellness leadership.
So far, there are four participants from Deline, Fort Good Hope and Tulita signed up, with three more from Colville Lake and two from Norman Wells.
Taneton says it was important to get representation from all Sahtú communities to build the network again.
Just a start
Getting a conversation started is one thing, sustaining it is quite another.
Taneton says next week’s meeting is only a beginning.
Organizers will give youth strategies to strengthen the network in their home communities. Part of that will be giving participants contact cards they can share in their communities that list people youth can talk to if they’re struggling with mental health.
The SRRB is also planning another youth meetup next year, says Taneton, one that will hopefully be on the land and which may include some training and certification programs like wilderness first aid.