Trevor Kasteel was 13 when his father passed away, and a family friend entrusted with his care started a pattern of sexual abuse.
Three decades later, Kasteel – now a prominent local entrepreneur – is working toward one dream: helping his fellow Northerners suffering with addictions, trauma and mental health challenges to access peer-to-peer support.
The Healing the North group was born out of a gruelling journey filled with loss, pain and suicidal ideation.
“I lost a lot of years with my oldest son. I lost a relationship early on with his mother. I lost a lot of years, being mixed up.”
In the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre auditorium, a bright-eyed Kasteel lurched toward the end of his seat, describing the moment he started to reclaim his experiences.
“It’s been a journey. Now I’m at a place where I’m peaceful and I really love myself. Going through all that I’ve gone through, I understand that now it’s to help people.”
Kasteel’s decision to lay charges came when he discovered there were other victims outside of the N.W.T.
In a serendipitous chain of events, he crossed paths in Calgary with retired NHL player Theo Fleury, who was abused by his junior coach, Graham James.
Fleury and Kasteel’s respective abusers both first targeted them as teenagers. For Fleury, years of assaults and threats to comply with a man who held the key to his career eventually led the hockey player down a path of alcohol abuse and self destruction.
Fleury founded the Breaking Free Foundation, which provides survivors of trauma with treatment and support. Members of that foundation lead a monthly group conversation about trauma and healing. It’s also the model for Kasteel’s newly launched healing gathering.
“We understand and we’re here for you. You can find peace. You can get rid of the burden,” he said.
“People could be walking around in their day to day and they carry baggage and it affects the people that they love around them in a negative way. I wanted to start something in the North that assists people to shed that negative baggage so they can live their life without it.”
Ten years earlier, Kasteel might have been scared to attend a meeting like Healing the North, but talking about his childhood experiences as an adult has been cathartic, he said.
“You’re finally able to process it, and finally release it,” he said.
“I’m excited to be able to share my stories whether its been the suicide or the sexual abuse or losing my father at a young age. Now I can share that to be able to be compassionate toward others,” Kasteel said.
“The first step is just starting to talk about it, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Healing the North group is open to all and will be held the fourth Thursday of every month at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre from 6 to 9 p.m. A mental health professional will be present at each meeting.