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Talking Stick App


In an effort to help Indigenous people feel heard about their mental health, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations with TryCycle Data Systems, a health technology company, created the Talking Stick app. It allows First Nations people in Saskatchewan to connect confidentially with a trained peer advocate in Saskatchewan on a text platform that is free and anonymous.

To celebrate one year of this great app, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner connected with Cecile McKay, the provincial director of Talking Stick.

OTC: Why was the Talking Stick app created?
CM: The chat app was created because nothing like this exists for First Nations people. During COVID especially, there was so much isolation, loneliness, and a lack of connection – the app started as an idea to create a safe space for people to seek comfort and connection, and to do it anonymously, which is the most important element of Talking Stick. There can be a lot of shame and hesitancy to seek help, so maybe the first step is to just have a place to feel heard, feel supported, without judgement.

The name “Talking Stick” comes from the traditional tool. A talking stick is used in talking circles where the person holding the stick is the one who gets to talk. It’s about respect, that when someone is holding the stick, others are to listen.


OTC: How does it work?
CM:  There are two ways you can use Talking Stick – you can go to our website my.talkingstick.app and click “Start Chat” to get connected to someone right away.

Or, you can download the Talking Stick app – it’s available for both iPhone and Android – talking stick-indigenous and then click start chat.

There is no username, password, phone number or any information required from you as its an entirely anonymous free chat app.


OTC:  What do you want people to know about using it?
CM: Our message is “Every Voice Matters.”  We want people to know that these are real people on the other end, and they share your culture, and your history. The Peer Advocates, who are the foundation of the chat app, represent 59 unique communities, perspectives, and lived experiences from north to south, east to west. The chat is available in English and seven Indigenou languages: Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Dene, Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, and Salteaux.

Most important is safety and trust. For anyone that wants to use this, there is no need to login or create a password, you don’t share your name or your phone number, you just need to click “start chat” and you can be connected to someone within minutes. I think it’s also important that people know whatever is typed out is deleted when the chat ends. There is no worry about someone else reading it or sharing it, or knowing what you talked about.

We also want people to know that this is not a crisis line and that our Peer Advocates are not licensed professionals. If someone is in immediate danger, they should seek professional attention. Peer Advocates do receive training and support, and they are paid positions. They are available to listen and provide support in times when you need it.

OTC: Can you tell me about the highlights of the first year of the Talking Stick app?
CM: We’re most proud of the number of new jobs we’ve created, almost 200 new jobs exclusively for Indigenous people, all in Saskatchewan.

The chat app has reached more than 10,000 people and the feedback from anonymous guests is incredible. People say “I feel heard”, “thank you for listening,” and “I feel better.”

The Talking Stick program has also provided a practicum setting for 22 students from SIIT, who are in school to become future Social Workers and Mental Health Therapists. We’re very proud to support these students in their academic journey; we work with them for a 4 to 6 week period and the response has been so positive. Some students stay on to join Talking Stick as a Peer Advocate


OTC: What are the next steps for the Talking Stick app and team?
CM:  Our team of Regional Managers are going to communities and reaching people where they live, work, and play to raise awareness about Talking Stick. That’s where the greatest impact has been. We are especially focusing on the youth and younger generations, visiting over 150 schools, showing kids how easy it is to use, and making sure they know that Talking Stick is there when they need it. Our dream is to have Talking Stick available on every school Chromebook across the province. Over the summer we hope to continue making connections with businesses, schools, community spaces, youth organizations, and mental health service providers to share Talking Stick as a resource that anyone can use.

If you want to invite a Talking Stick member to your organization, school, business, or upcoming community event, please contact us. We can arrange a presentation or drop off pamphlets and posters to share our message. You can contact me cecile@trycycle.ca

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