Let's Work to Create a Culture of Lateral Kindness, Humility and Safety – EVERY Day, Not Just Today!
Dr. Nel Wieman marks Pink Shirt Day with Jordie Johnson of the Secwepemc Nation.
A message from Dr. Nel Wieman, FNHA Acting Chief Medical Officer
Anti-Bullying and Pink T-Shirt Day is a time to stand up against bullying, to think about the importance of being kind and respectful to one another, and to assess what we can do better in this area. We wear pink shirts on this day to publicly declare that we believe bullying in any form is unacceptable.
Bullying is known in First Nations circles as Lateral Violence. It's a serious public health problem that we need to counteract and replace with Lateral Kindness, a concept based on our cultural teachings to lift each other up and support all of us, but especially those in our community who may be struggling. Our Elders have always taught that we are all connected, and that what happens to one community member happens to all. We honour our Elders and their teachings when we treat each other with Lateral Kindness.
Using Lateral Kindness to eliminate Lateral Violence is something I feel strongly about because, as a psychiatrist by training, with many years' experience treating people in emotional and mental distress, I've seen how deeply unkindness can affect people's health and lives. We've all seen or heard the tragic news stories of suicides or homicides that often seem to cite “bullying" as a main factor – and we've also seen or heard about how kind words and actions can bring great healing and comfort.
What's more, as a First Nations woman who is in a position of leadership, standing against bullying is especially important to me. I strive to “lead with kindness and empathy," as former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern puts it, and to cultivate within my team and organization a culture of humility and safety. A culture of humility is one in which everyone acknowledges the gifts that each person brings to the community, and each person finds joy in being able to serve their community with the gifts they were given. A culture of safety is one in which each person feels welcomed, safe, and supported to bring their full being into their relations, to share their gifts and wisdom, and to open up challenging conversations without fear of persecution or repercussion.
That is the ideal. Unfortunately, despite all the publicity bullying receives these days, it is still a major problem in our schools, workplaces, homes, and on social media. We have to do more than give it lip service and wear pink shirts one day a year. We really do need to think about – and do – what we can to practise Lateral Kindness and stand up against Lateral Violence. My team and I are committed to this, the FNHA as a whole is committed to this, and I hope you will join us in standing up for kindness and against bullying.
Most, if not all, First Nations people know from experience that bullying/unkindness, whether it be in the form of racism or lateral violence, is harmful to our health in every way. We are all healing from the traumatic effects of racism, discrimination, and genocidal / assimilationist policies and systems such as the “Indian Residential 'School' System," the “Sixties' Scoop," and the “Indian Reserve System." Knowing this, being kind to each other should be a given.
Here is some information on how to use Lateral Kindness to address Lateral Violence. (These terms were developed by Indigenous scholars and are based on Indigenous ways of knowing.)
If you are experiencing bullying, and need help or someone to talk to: 24 Hour KUU-US Crisis Line: 1-800-588-8717
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Learn more about Pink Shirt Day here.