The Saskatoon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre has started offering programs for mental health support as part of a new initiative.

Charleen Cote and Shauna Watcheston, two mental health therapists at the centre, came up with the idea for the initiative after noticing many people who come to the friendship centre are in need of more support.

“It just started out as a conversation,” Cote said. “We started seeing our people coming through the doors and they were so entrenched in addiction and mental health issues (so) we started asking ‘what can we do to provide better services for our people?’

The new initiative is named Sītoskawātowin, which is the Cree word for “supporting one another”.

Watcheston said the name holds great meaning.

“When Charleen and I started talking about this program and what we wanted this program to be, (we said) we wanted it to be a support for all people including ourselves,” she said. “We don’t see ourselves as above or below—we are equal to the people we work with. So, we sought out an elder and we asked (them) to give us a name for our program that would encompass that.”

The initiative offers programming for children and adults, most of which help in dealing with trauma.

“Rather than dealing with violence or things that are actually effects, we’re dealing with the cause, which is trauma,” Cote said. “So our programs aim is to try to help address that trauma and teach people to deal with their trauma in healthier ways.”

The programming began in April, and according to Cote, spots continuously fill up each week.

The programs within the initiative include play therapy for children, esteem therapy for Indigenous girls aged 12 to 16, and parenting therapy for adults.

Cote said a goal for the initiative is to create a program that would work as a required course to be taken by Indigenous people who are charged with domestic violence.

(PHOTO: Charleen Cote (left) and Shauna Watcheston (right) started Sītoskawātowin to be able to give Indigenous people in Saskatoon more mental health support. Photo submitted by Charleen Cote.)