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His plan to extend the meetings to the correctional camp met a positive reception from its employees, he said.
Feedback from inmates further encouraged him and the facility’s staff. The first meeting ran two hours, and covered the basics of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Topics for future meetings would be left for the participants to decide.
Inmates often struggle with mental health, but a lack of resources and even more uncertainties surrounding their release remains a pressing concern, Merasty said.
“They end up falling back (into) old habits,” he said, adding some were concerned they would return to custody within months of their release.
Dennis Caplette, another organizer with Men of the North who joined Merasty for the meeting with inmates, said there is “big-time” lack of support for many of people transitioning out of custody.
“The way that systems are set up right now, a lot of people don’t have the ability to sit down and have those types of conversations,” he said.
The inmates held their own support meeting last week, and another conversation with Men of the North is to be held this week.
In the coming months, Merasty plans to hold more meetings inside the camp or sitting around a fire in the outdoors. Thoseconversations are a source of restored hope, he said.
“Many of us make mistakes, but if we can learn to change those mistakes, change those ways and try to live a more positive lifestyle … I think we’re going to go in the right direction.”