Indigenous

Helpline for Indigenous women expands service throughout Ontario

Talk4Healing, which began six years ago providing crisis helpline services for Indigenous women in Northern Ontario, expands its services to the rest of the province on Friday.

Service available in 13 Indigenous languages through translation

Talk4Healing's expansion will provide text or online chat options for Indigenous women in Ontario to connect with a support worker. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

A telephone helpline that offers support for Indigenous women in Northern Ontario is expanding its services to the rest of Ontario on Friday.

After six years of operation, Talk4Healing has received funding from the provincial government to offer services to the entire province.

"We're excited to be able to offer this into the south," said Robin Haliuk, Talk4Healing's supervisor.

"We know that there is a huge Indigenous population through southern Ontario, so we're excited to reach out and let women know that we're here and we're there for them."

The help Talk4Healing offers ranges from urgent crisis intervention to assistance navigating situations or providing a listening ear.

"It's listening to their story, really hearing their stories of where they're coming from and actually getting an understanding of where they are at," said Dionne Beardy, a frontline worker who offers counselling to callers.

Dionne Beardy has been working with Talk4Healing for six years as a frontline counsellor. (spPR Inc.)

"It could be trauma, domestic violence, relationships, a crisis or loss — we're here to support women where they are at, at that moment."

Beardy is an Anishinaabe women from Muskrat Dam First Nation in Northwestern Ontario who has been working with Talk4Healing since it launched.

About 90 per cent of the staff working the phone lines are Indigenous and all of the staff at Talk4Healing are women.

"It's a safe space," said Haliuk.

The helpline provides a listening ear and information on resources to turn to.

"We never tell somebody what they need to do," she said. "It's about helping them find solutions for themselves."

Along with English and French, Talk4Healing provided the option for service in the three most commonly spoken First Nations languages in Northern Ontario: Ojibway, Cree and Oji-Cree.

'There's so much healing involved in just being able to tell your story,' says Robin Haliuk, Talk4Healing supervisor. (spPR Inc. )

"There's so much healing involved in just being able to tell your story and for some of our callers being able to tell their story in their language," said Haliuk.

"We've all been in places in our lives where things have been difficult...talking to somebody anonymously can be so valuable."

Now with the expansion, there are translation services available for 13 Indigenous languages to better serve the diverse Indigenous population of Ontario.

The expansion provides also new options for women to communicate through text or online chat with a support worker.

The helpline can be reached at 1-855-554-4325.

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.