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Talk4Healing helps isolated women connect

Thursday November 22, 2012
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Talk4Healing is a 24/7 telephone help line for women living in isolated communities in northern Ontario that are experiencing or might experience violence. It is operated by Beendigen in partnership with the Ontario Native Women’s Association.

“Violence is an abuse of power that greatly limits, if not stops, all family members’ abilities to seek and reach mino-pimatisiwin (the good life),” reads a line from Michael Anthony Hart’s book Seeking Mino-Pimatisiwin: An Aboriginal Approach to Helping.

The “good life” is different for everyone in any situation, and for some First Nations women in isolated, northern communities who are affected by family violence, it can be very difficult to find that life and start to heal. On Oct. 19, a new help-line was launched to help those isolated women start their journey to healing.

Talk4Healing is a 24/7 telephone help line that is operated by Beendigen in partnership with the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA).

Robin Haliuk, Talk4Healing coordinator at Beendigen, said that the help line provides services to Aboriginal women via the telephone. The line offers counselling services, crisis support, and “a friendly voice at the end of the line.” Talk4Healing also offers safety planning for women, specifically those who may be experiencing, or at threat to experience, violence.

“This program is so important because it’s really reaching out to those isolated communities,” Haliuk said. She explained that the program is culturally-appropriate. “It’s Aboriginal women servicing Aboriginal women. All of our agents speak Ojibwe, Ojicree or Cree. Language is so important,” she said. There is also a tele-type writer (TTY) option as well as English speaking agents.

Talk4Healing has been in operation for over a month now, and Haliuk is quite pleased with the reaction so far. “It’s been very positive,” she said. “The response to the telephone counselling has been positive and I expect those numbers to only increase as awareness (of the help line) increases.”

Haliuk explained that some of the women who work as telephone agents for Talk4Healing are from remote communities and have a first-hand understanding of what it’s like to live in one, including problems accessing counselling services, and the difficulty of leaving the community to get to a safe place due to no road access.

Patricia Jurivee, Beendigen’s executive director, stressed the importance of Aboriginal women being able to find someone to talk to and how Talk4Healing provides that option.

“Talking is a way of healing. So it’s the beginning of her healing journey,” said Jurivee. “They have many things going on in their lives; I remember what it was like to be a young person and you need somebody there to talk to.”

If a woman was afraid to call in and speak, Jurivee assured that Talk4Healing is there for the caller. “We would ensure her that she is safe, she can say whatever she needs to say to us. We will help her in any way that we can. There’s nothing she can say that we haven’t heard before. Our goal is to help her feel safe, to keep women safe.”

Maryanne Matthews, media and communications officer with ONWA, said that Talk4Healing is there for the women from isolated community who need help. “We think it’s important for Aboriginal women to know that there is help out there for them,” Matthews said. “A lot of the time, especially in northern communities, they do feel that they have nowhere to turn and no one to talk to, and that if they do try to talk to someone they’re not going to get the help they need.”

Haliuk said the line has even received calls from women who are not in the service area of northern Ontario. “We have been surprised by how many callers we have had from outside our districts, including as far as Nunavut.”

Jurivee said that Talk4Healing is a “child project” in northern Ontario, but hopes that it will one day be provincial-wide service. “The lines are open!” she said.

The toll-free number is 1-855-554-HEAL (4325) and has agents available 24/7.

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