La Loche unveils virtual reality wellness initiative

Submitted photo. A student at Dene High School puts on a virtual reality headset on display during a demonstration on December 1.

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan
Northern Fighter

Families and community members in La Loche had the opportunity to learn about a new collaborative Virtual Reality wellness initiative aimed at bringing more mental health options for youth in the community. just
The initiative involves a partnership between the La Loche community and Saskatchewan Polytechnic. The event was held at Dene High School on Thursday, December 1.
“The event is a celebration,” Dene High School wellness coordinator Alvera Hatch said in a Saskatchewan Polytechnic news release. “We gather to feast, enjoy entertainment from local jiggers and share what our youth are working on at Sask Polytech”
The youth of La Loche initiated the project by taking the idea of ​​using virtual reality to promote mental wellness forward; they have been an integral part of the project since the beginning.
The project is intended to be a three-year undertaking, starting in 2020. It’s off to a slow start, according to Lindsay Boechler, the initiative’s research lead.
“We’re looking at ways through virtual reality to support their (youth’s) mental health and well-being,” Boechler said in an interview with the Northern Advocate.
He collects data at the school and from community members to see what resources are available and where there are gaps to ensure that technology acts as a resource for the community’s youth.
“Virtual reality is a headset that you wear and it is immersed in technology so that you can create social platforms with it. There may be an opportunity to offer clinical resources right here in the city rather than on the phone,” said Boechler.
Young people from the community are leading the project. They have “special cameras, which can be used to record lessons or specific environments and then students can immerse themselves in the recordings at any time.”
While there are still many resources to record, edit and install VR equipment, Kayden Roth Howat, 18, a Grade 12 student in La Loche, who has worked with the project since it began, said, he tried the equipment.
“It can read your mood and see if you are happy or calm. When we put these hits on the VR headset, including myself, it calmed me down maybe 50 percent. It calms me down … I go about my daily life and when I put this headset on all I hear is the Elder. He was talking to me and I was looking around and I could hear the waves of water crashing over the men. Then I saw the bees and I saw the moon in the sky and all the stars.”
About half of the recording and filming of La Loche is complete and may have been edited for headset loading, Roth Howat said.
Sometimes the camera footage is blurry or something else happens and everything needs to be edited and made to look professional before it can be used, he said.
Roth Howard attended the first event for Dene High School students and was intrigued. It changed his life and improved his skills since the beginning of the project.
After asking some questions about the process of the initiative, he was invited to join the team working to bring this project to fruition.
Roth Howat was interviewed about the television project and is excited about where it will lead to help his community with depression and help reduce the sense of isolation felt by some young people living in a remote community in the north.
He said virtual reality equipment can be set up to bring the world to the youth of his community, especially the youth who don’t get the chance to leave La Loche.
The project has three phases. With the first phase mostly complete, after a slow start, due to the Pandemic; they need funding to continue.
Additional funding is needed to continue the project into the proposed second and third years. In the next phases, Sask Polytech will work towards building a secure VR platform and continue to foster community partnerships and build local capacity around the use and development of VR technology,” quoted from the release. in the news.
CHRIS, the Center for Health Research, Innovation and Scholarship (CHRIS) at Sask Polytech “supports faculty in the School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing in achieving their goals and aspirations in the development of scholarship. Through CHRIS faculty can be successful support for publications and presentations, grant and funding applications and requests for service sessions on different topics.
“We are honored to be a part of this community applied research partnership and are excited to celebrate milestone research achievements like this with the community,” said Dr. Madeline Press, director for CHRIS, was quoted as saying in the news release.
When the initiative is and running the youth of La Loche should be able to provide a headset and access to cultural resources based anywhere in the world, even if it is an Elder who talk from the community, other youth in a distant community or clinical resources in the city.
“For those who can’t afford to leave the city, they can. You, touch a lot of land. They can, basically for free, travel around the world and meet other people, talk to other people who know they exist. Another benefit of one of these is learning about the culture,” said Roth Howard.
The initiative can offer the experience of learning about their own culture, but also to share cultural learning with others in different communities and countries close to home and around the world.
At the moment, said Roth Howat, he is not sure of the timeline of the next phase of the project, he is excited about what is happening in VR in his community.

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