A Personal Reflection for Mental Health Day (Oct. 10) by Adam Gauthier, Child and Youth Coordinator, Vancouver Island Region, FNHA
When parting ways with someone we may hear the phrase 'take care' as a way to wish another person well in their journey. In Hul'qumi'num, this expression of care is “laal'a'ma'thut" and may also include a reminder to be careful of our words and actions. While it may be common to say 'take care' to others, let's remember to say it to ourselves, and follow through with self-affirming, loving and compassionate words and actions.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been very cautious to keep ourselves and each other safe, and have made extra efforts to support each other. For World Mental Health Day I would like to remind you that, while giving is essential to our well-being, we need to be in good overall health ourselves to give to others. Indigenous culture can uplift us all as it holds medicine, healing and resurgence and this can collectively love and carry us through times when we need guidance.
This past year, I led the development and distribution of hundreds of wellness kits for First Nations youth on Vancouver Island. The wellness kits held items that supported youth to envision balance within themselves and feed their spirits wholistically. We all have what we need within, and it may only be a matter of remembering to check in with ourselves and provide the gift of wellness. When we are able to be well, we can walk and stand tall. A simple way to do this is to ask ourselves once in a while, “Where am I at physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually?" Checking In
When checking in with yourself, ask where you're at on the medicine wheel. The medicine wheel teaches us that we have four aspects: the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual. You can rate yourself a red, orange or green light for each dimension. For instance, when I'm 'green', I'm doing well and feeling looked after. If I'm 'orange', I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and out of balance. If I'm 'red', I need to stop, slow down, and take better care of myself.
Feeling like you are coming to or are at a crossroad can feel confusing. You might feel scared, anxious or overwhelmed. Be gentle with yourself and remember the traditional teachings we have been told about resiliency. We can promote life through sharing stories and actively listening.
Another important way to remain well is to keep our 'circle of care' in mind, especially during uncertain times. All of our circles of care will be different and unique. What we choose to honour in our circle of care can include family, friends, hobbies, or resourceful practices we utilize. Gifts
A wellness gift can be anything from treating yourself to some time with family, gathering land materials and medicines, resourcing items that are found from your favourite places, and maybe even taking that nap you wanted to. Giving ourselves wellness gifts is sentimental and personal. Cherish yourself! Giving ourselves gifts is not only for holidays or special occasions, we can do this every day.
Giving yourself a gift is often seen as a reward when it's actually an instrumental part of taking care of yourself. If something adds quality to your life, act on it and keep it growing. You'll appreciate yourself more. Remember you are made of medicine and built on traditions – traditions that are strengthened with knowledge, grounded in teachings, and connected to the land. All of those living parts are in our DNA and our ancestral bonds.