Castor and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), through a grant from the Alberta Rural Mental Health Project, presented a workshop on letter-writing and mental health on Nov. 20 at Paintearth Lodge.
The presentation was put on by Doreen Blumhagen, the owner of Country Road Chats, a mental health presentation business.
To begin, Blumhagen shared her story of battling post-partum and clinical depression focussing on the tools which assisted significantly with her recovery, namely, writing.
“It’s exercise for your brain,” said Blumhagen.
Blumhagen identified three different types of letters that can have a meaningful impact on people and their mental health; the first is journaling.
According to Blumhagen, there is something “emotional” about writing a letter to someone, or even to oneself.
“We’ve lost that habit,” said Blumhagen, noting that before the internet, letter writing between people was the norm.
Blumhagen says that journaling can help someone deal with grief, death, diagnosis, or any other type of loss.
“Journaling helps sort out the pieces,” said Blumhagen, though she notes that it can also be helpful to “rant on paper.”
“I find peace when I get (things) off my mind.”
Another type of letter people can write is letters to Heaven.
“It doesn’t have to be long and daunting,” said Blumhagen.
“Letters stand the test of time.”
Letters to Heaven can be used to express thoughts and feelings to loved ones who have died and are being missed.
These letters can also be used to highlight appreciation of things people have in their lives.
Finally, Blumhagen says that the journals and Letters to Heaven turn into the third category, Letters from (emphasis added) Heaven.
“What do you want to leave behind?” asked Blumhagen.
“These letters can reinforce that legacy you can leave behind.”
As part of the afternoon session, all of the around 15 people in attendance at the session received a Rural Mental Health Project journal for them to begin their own writing process.
Additionally, in collaboration between the Grade 7/8 class and Castor’s Paintearth Lodge, a “secret pal” program is being established.
In it, anonymous writers, a lodge resident partnered with a student, will write monthly letters back and forth. While they can’t ask each other for their identities, they can ask about likes, dislikes and family pets.
The plan will be to bring lodge residents and students together towards the end of the school year for a pizza party where the identities will be revealed.