Dene-speaking health line open as Sask. gov't encourages use of mental health resources

Saskatchewan government gave out a list of resources to those needing mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grassroots initiatives have been organized to give therapy in indigenous languages as well.

More mental health supports and language translations needed for people dealing with COVID-19 concerns

Two women offering a call-in support service in Dene said they're able to help elders develop trust in the health care system. (Shutterstock)

The provincial government wants people to know that there are places to go and people to call in case they are having anxiety or need mental health assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Here is a list of the places you can call: 

"Living through this uncertain and distressing time has caused some level of worry for us all," said Premier Scott Moe.

"Just as people should be caring for their physical health during this pandemic, it's important to pay attention to our mental health too."

"Whether you're coping with the loneliness of self-isolation, concerned about the health of your loved ones or worried about what the future may hold, there are mental health supports available to help you through this difficult time," Moe said in a press release. 

Call volumes up, but manageable

The Mobile Crisis Centre handles a lot of 'after-hour' problems people may have in Regina. Executive Director, Jan Thomson, said there is no way that they can track exactly how many calls that are coming in since the COVID-19 pandemic started but said that they are holding steady.  

"Usually we tabulate those numbers on a regular basis, but there is no time right now for that, and no support staff to do it," Thomson said. 

Mobile Crisis Centre staff are certainly receiving calls about COVID-19, but they are not overwhelmed. She said people are very accepting of what is going on. 

"The numbers are available 24 hours. Someone will answer and speak with them, it's what we do," Thomson said. 

"We are happy to talk about COVID or any other problems they are having." 

Besides the resources listed by the province, there are other groups helping people every day. 

Some are grassroots organizations that have their phones open to anyone struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Therapy in Indigenous languages

One movement was created by two Dene women from northern Saskatchewan. Delia Allberg and Tammy Lidguerre both have degrees in social work and are registered social workers. 

After being on the ground when the Wollaston Lake suicide crisis was happening, the women decided to put their experience, and language to work during this pandemic. 

They created a poster offering therapy services to the public, free of charge — and in Dene. The poster is making rounds on social media, beyond what the women expected.

"We do have other jobs during the day. This was meant for during the evenings," said Lidguerre, who is a health director in a community on the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan. 

"I found that language is a barrier when it comes to mental health - especially when it comes to the elderly," said Lidguerre. 

"It's an advantage if you can speak the language and connect with the people easily," she said. 

Allberg agreed, and said offering therapy sessions and mental health services in Indigenous languages can help build trust in the health care system.

"One time a person was going to get a surgery. He didn't understand. He was an elderly person, he didn't understand  He was denying the operation, and so he contacted me." 

"I went and translated for him — and he went and got the operation the very next day. He got his operation and he was quite happy he was able to understand what was going on, and to get his medical care done, and complete," said Allberg. 

Although Lindguerre and Allberg have just stared this initiative of offering therapy sessions on the phone in Dene, they plan on continuing with it. 

"We do translate, and people are usually more cooperative, become easier... they're just easier to work with," said Allberg.