Workshop in northern B.C. advocates for more health services for men

Men’s health is often overlooked says an outreach worker who helps people who are struggling on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“A lot of us grew up hearing ‘boys don’t cry,’ hearing men, ‘boys don’t show emotions,’ and the end result is that we grew up with all this pressure, and we grow up messes because we’re holding all that stuff in,” says James Harry.

Men from a number of communities around northern British Columbia were in Kitamaat Village Wednesday and Thursday to talk about how to change that.

Kyle Sam is an outreach worker from Dude’s Club in Prince George that provides Indigenous men’s wellness support in communities in different parts of Canada.

He says healthy men are essential to healthy communities.

“Our men are an important part of the community. It’s something where we need to take some of those roles back,” he says.

Men march in Kitamaat Village in B.C. to advocate for more services. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN.

The men at this gathering are completing a two-day workshop.

Sam says there’s a need for more events like this across the country.

“We already do it when we’re hunting, when we’re fishing, when we’re out on the land, we’re letting go of some stress, those are very, very important parts of the way men let go and we’ve realized that, especially when you’re in isolated communities or northern communities,” he says.

This trip to Kitamaat Village is Gordon McMillan’s first time travelling to his home territory.

He is a 41-year-old Haisla Nation member who spent time in the child welfare system. He found himself struggling with addictions on the Downtown Eastside.

McMillan says he’s happy to be welcomed home and walk on his healing journey with members from other nations.

“Walk with James and everybody from all nations of northern B.C, as far as Vancouver, really brings light to my eyes that there is hope for us; we just need to reach out,” he said.

Gordon McMillan says this is the first time in his home territory after spending time in the child welfare system and struggling with addiction in Vancouver. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN.

McMillan is grateful that he connected with James Harry, an outreach worker who believed in him.

He hopes other nations could succeed with their members with outreach programs.

“I am glad that the Haisla Nation had an outreach worker and are going to implement that with other nations so they have outreach workers and do that same walk that James does; it’s very uplifting to all nations,” he said.

Harry said he is currently in talks with more nations, hoping this gathering grows.

They want to set positive examples for all the communities.

“We are hoping to see other nations come on board, and they can carry that to their nations and their kids, that it’s okay to reach out,” he said.

Organizers plan to make the men’s mental health gathering in Northern B.C. an annual event.

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