Memories of residential schools, recent discoveries of unmarked graves taking mental toll on Sask. survivors

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Whether its memories of attending them, or the recent discoveries of unmarked graves, residential schools haven taken a mental toll on many.

Del Crowe, is a residential school survivor who has tried to put the painful memories behind him. He was relieved to see Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue removed from Victoria Park.

“Well it’s in his term that the residential schools were actually invented,” Crowe said.

Other reminders are harder to avoid. Crowe spent his early school years at the Lebret Residential School.

Last year’s discovery of unmarked graves at several former residential school sites across Canada has been especially difficult for those who attended the schools.

“I’ve been aware of all of the horrors of residential schools for all of my whole life. I know these stories and I talked about it but nobody believes me,” Crowe said.

Now, people are beginning to see first-hand for themselves.

Dr. Renee Linklater, Senior Director of Shkaabe Makwa at CAMH, works in Indigenous mental health in Toronto.

“You know it has been a really challenging time for many people that have had their own experiences or have had family members that have been impacted by residential school,” Linklater said.

COVID-19 has made things even more difficult for those who experienced trauma at residential schools.

“You know, yesterday (Tuesday) was two years since we discovered the first COVID case within Canada and so thinking about you know kind of access people have to even being connected to others you know feeling really isolated, struggling with various mental health issues and wondering about our own survival, right,” Linklater said.

Mental health experts stress the importance of reaching out to those who seem withdrawn and may be hurting. They say a gesture of caring could ultimately be someone’s medicine.

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If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

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