Alana Kane enjoying the great outdoors with her daughter Vivian this winter. Courtesy Alana Kane
Local mother Katsitsahawe Norton found a sense of community at the parenting teens group offered by Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS).
“We still feel young ourselves, and it’s like, how are we raising these teens?” she said.
At a time when youth are wounded by pandemic measures and sometimes acting out, parents are able to find solace in sharing their feelings and experiences with one another.
“It makes your own personal situation just a little bit easier knowing somewhere in another house, someone’s going through the same thing as you,” said Norton. “I can’t even say how much it helps,” she said. “It’s a lifesaver is all I can really say.”
Parents and teens are not the only ones struggling through another winter of COVID-19 measures as the pandemic approaches its third year. Many Kahnawa’kehró:non and people everywhere are feeling isolated and in need of support.
“If we know anything by now about the pandemic, it for sure started out as a physical health pandemic, but now we’re really recognizing the mental, emotional, and spiritual crisis that we have on our hands now as well because of it,” said Alana Kane, manager of mental wellness and addictions as KSCS.
KSCS offers a host of support groups, including safe spaces for LGBTQ2S+ youth and adults, those stricken by grief, and those looking for a place to discuss men’s and women’s issues.
The organization also offers counseling and connects Kahnawa’kehró:non to outside resources that may be a good fit for them.
The demand lately has been huge, Kane said, resulting in wait lists for certain services, even as KSCS constantly looks to recruit new counselors.
“It’s definitely a very difficult time for folks, no question,” she said.
Kane is chairperson of the Wellness Action Team, a group comprised of staff from several community organizations and institutions that was created to complement the work of the COVID-19 Task Force, which is focused on the physical health aspect of the pandemic.
“We want people to have actual tools in their toolbox to do something to help themselves, and then also at the same time provide lots and lots of resources to people,” said Kane.
For many, a good first step is to contact KSCS at 450-632-6880 and ask for intake. 811 is another psychosocial resource available for people.
There are other things people might consider doing for their mental health. For example, they might take a walk outside with a friend, said Kane, or make a cup of tea and read a book instead of tackling their to-do list.
“It’s really important to practice a lot of self-compassion,” she said.
Dates for the upcoming sessions of the LGBTQ2S+ and parenting teens groups have already been announced, while other schedules will soon be available.
Due to the Omicron wave, KSCS is offering its support groups over Zoom for the time being.
“We recognize that online is definitely not ideal, especially when part of the issue is isolation,” said Kane. There is also a concern that online groups do not offer the same level of anonymity.
Still, while KSCS intends to return to in-person meetings as soon as possible, the online groups can bring comfort to people in the meantime.
“Anytime you can meet with someone, regardless of the format, and you can talk about and share that lived experience, it is helpful for folks,” said Kane.
Even staff at KSCS have benefitted from virtual sharing circles.
“We’re all going through this, and to be able to lean on each other in that way is actually really, really helpful,” Kane said.
She emphasized the importance of de-stigmatizing and normalizing the way people are feeling in these unprecedented and difficult times.
“Sometimes we feel alone like we’re the only person in the world feeling this way,” she said, “and then when we start talking about it and we recognize that no, actually lots of people are feeling this way, at least it makes us feel less alone.”
For another member of the parenting teens group, KSCS has been a multigenerational lifeline.
“I am happy to say that after receiving mental health services through KSCS that my teen is doing much better,” said the anonymous parent.
“I believe I owe a lot to the parenting teens support group for guiding me through, supporting me with ideas on how to connect with my teen, and giving me a space where I can express my feelings,” said the parent.
Marcus is managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.