On February 14, the Houston Stepping Stones Project in Partnership with the Houston Friendship Centre Youth TEAM Project will be hosting a walk and rally in honour of the ‘Missing and Murdered’ women and individuals currently living on the margins.
The walk will be followed by a family feast and a family dance. This feast and dance will celebrate the positive mental health promotion and the good mental health practices that have been developed and adopted as a result of the two projects.
Both the Stepping Stones Project and the Youth TEAM Project are funded by the Community Action Initiative. The mandate of this funding is to promote positive mental health and foster inclusion for and with people living with or at risk for mental illness and addictions.
At the onset of the Stepping Stones Project we discovered that a person’s sense of community belonging strongly influenced their overall mental health and use of substances.
Immediately, we saw the association between a sense of community belonging and a person’s health were strongly correlated. Data reported from the recent 2007/08 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), found a significant and consistent association between a person’s sense of belonging and health, particularly mental health, even when controlling for geography and socio-economic status.
This is not a life sentence though, despite the health deficit that exists in rural and small-towns such as Houston.
Communities like ours are able to overcome health challenges and create conditions conducive to a positive sense of belonging.
The Stepping Stone Project has put conditions in place, such as providing a safe place for program registrants to try new things, implementing opportunities for non traditional and natural leadership to engage, as well as educating broader service organization about inclusion.
The walk and rally are an acknowledgement that there is so much more that needs to be done around the promotion of positive mental health practices to overcome the health challenges that people face.
It is not a stretch to state that many of the women who have gone missing and have been murdered were displaced within or from their communities as a result of:
– Racist and sexist stereotypes that deny the dignity and worth of Indigenous women, encouraging some men to feel they can get away with violent acts of hatred against them.
– Decades of government policy that have impoverished and broken apart Indigenous families and communities, leaving many Indigenous women and girls extremely vulnerable to exploitation and attack.
– Many police forces failing to institute necessary measures – such as training, appropriate investigative protocols and accountability mechanisms – to eliminate bias in how they respond to the needs of Indigenous women and their families.
This walk is a way for us as a community to state emphatically that we are all equally valued and equally important to the health of the whole community. We all belong and deserve to feel that sense of belonging. “A community is only as strong as it’s weakest member.”