In photos: Yellowknifers march for addictions, mental health awareness

Dozens of students from local schools participated in the march.

A student marches as part of the Tree of Peace's annual Wellness Walk. (Ian Down/CKLB photo)

For Sir John Franklin High School Student Reanna Brownlee, addictions and mental health are issues that hit close to home.

“I’m doing it for the kids around me, all the kids I work with,” she says. “There’s so many kids with parents that struggle from addiction and suffer — my family, my friends.”

(Ian Down/CKLB photo)

To mark National Addictions Awareness Week, Brownlee and dozens of others, mostly youth, marched through the streets of downtown Yellowknife on Monday, braving strong winds to raise awareness about addictions and mental health as part of the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre’s annual Wellness March. Marchers displayed signs calling for an end to stigma and for those suffering to reach out for help.

Afterwards, pizza and juice were served, and prizes were handed out for the best signs.

The wellness walk is about as old as the Tree of Peace itself, which was founded in 1970. This year’s theme was Inspiration, Innovation and Inclusion.

(Ian Down/CKLB photo)

As the Tree of Peace’s community wellness manager, Katherine Arden has seen firsthand how street drugs have become more dangerous in recent years. “Even marijuana has been laced with other drugs, so you never know what you’re consuming. You might think it’s safe buying it from somebody else, but you don’t know what’s in it. You have to be very careful.”

She says it’s important to get young people involved so they can be aware of these dangers.

And young people did get involved, including dozens of students from Mildred Hall and Sir John Franklin. Many of them, including Brownlee, are part of a mental health awareness group called Magnanimous Advocates Generating Mental Health Awareness (MAGMA).

“I think that it’s incredibly important for young people to get involved with mental health advocacy, and in particular, addiction awareness, because [often] children feel powerless and unable to change other things, such as habits of other people or themselves,” said Cyrus Walton, another member of MAGMA. “But bringing more people together and advocating for and spreading awareness, gives them that power and gives them the idea that, ‘I can actually make a change, I can help other people, and I’m not sick or powerless.'”

Students with the Sir John Franklin mental health advocacy group Magnanimous Advocates Generating Mental Health Awareness. (Ian Down/CKLB photo)

Arden says the march will be back again next year. “If you’d like to make a poster, we can provide you with sticks and poster board, [so] come out and have some pizza and beverages and talk with the youth.”

(Ian Down/CKLB photo)

About the Author

Ian Down
Ian Down is a general news reporter from the West Island of Montreal. After studying journalism and computer science at Concordia University, he came to Yellowknife in 2021, joining the CKLB team in September 2022. When not behind his desk, you can find him at a local Yellowknife poetry reading, or annoying his roommates by playing his clarinet at odd hours. Feel free to reach out with any tips or story ideas at, or follow him on Twitter at @IanDown1996.