Tell me about yourself and your position at CMHA Calgary?
Lisa: I lead the overall operations and direction of the Recovery College. My role is to ensure that the Recovery College reflects the community needs of Calgarians and to ensure that the College is accessible and that any barriers are limited or completely removed. Having worked in Peer Support for many years now, it is incredibly encouraging to see the role and the power of peer support gain momentum. The development of Recovery College takes this to a whole new level, enabling us to really connect with the community that CMHA already serves, and also those who we’d love to bring into our community. I truly believe that the best services are not only informed by the people who use them but are actually developed by them too, and this is why the Recovery College, in my opinion, begins to offer choice and truly empower people living with mental health or addiction to choose the path that’s right for them. Equally exciting are the options we are providing to the people caring and supporting loves ones living with addiction or mental health. For so long caregivers, families and friends have walked the path alone and the Recovery College provides a space for family connection and space for them to find their own balance.
Meghan: I am the Recovery Lead here at CMHA-Calgary, so my role involves overseeing the day-to-day workings of the Recovery College and the Peer Support Team.
Sam: I got my start with the CMHA by attending the Peer School to become a Family Peer Support Worker which helped me learn how to tell my story and use my lived experience in a way that can help others who are on a similar journey. My experience with the magic of peer support helps me every day in my current role as a Recovery Trainer with the Recovery College. Whether I’m working with youth, individuals or caregivers, being able to share my story in a way that can possibly instill hope in others has been truly invaluable. As a Recovery Trainer, I work collaboratively with my fellow trainers and Peer Support Workers to develop and deliver content meant to aid in personal growth, build capacity and guide people along their recovery journey. Ultimately we are looking to help people along the deeply personal path to discover what recovery means to them and to empower them to live their best life.
Simrat: I am a Trainer with the Recovery College program at CMHA. I have worked for CMHA for about three years, my position began as a Coordinator and Facilitator in the formerly known program, Peer Options. I have a background in Psychology and Social Work and I have worked in areas of mental health, immigrant, and refugee populations. I was born and raised in Calgary, brought up by immigrant parents from India.
Iftu: I am a Recovery Trainer at CMHA. I co-facilitate a variety of courses at the Recovery College including Spoken Word. Part of my own self-care is writing and performing poetry. Putting my thoughts on to paper and sharing those thoughts in a safe environment has been incredibly healing in my own recovery journey, which is why I am so excited to be co-facilitating it. It’s been incredibly rewarding being able to blend my skills as a teacher with my passion for spoken word and social justice. Being part of a work environment that actively works towards ending the stigma surrounding mental health has been inspiring and has made me really hopeful for my own community and Canada at large.
Catherine: I’ve been involved with CMHA since 2015 and currently work as a Peer Support Worker, and co-facilitate some of the classes offered out of Recovery College. We strive to create a sense of community, sparking off hope, and promoting the message that recovery is possible for everyone.
Priscilla: As a Peer Recovery Trainer, we have the pleasure of connecting with peers on a one-on-one basis, as well as co-facilitating some of our Recovery College classes. We also get invited to speak at events, workshops and different trade shows around the city promoting our services and the recovery model.
MaryLou: I am a Recovery Trainer who has been facilitating with CMHA for over 4 years. I believe in recovery – the ability for those who struggle with mental health to become more self-determined, healthier and more connected to their communities.
Describe an average day at CMHA Calgary?
Sam: A day at CMHA Calgary is anything but average. Some days I’m in schools, some days in out in the community, some days in at the Recovery College and Welcome Centre. Although many days are different the things that connect these days are being surrounded by inspiring people, hearing stories of strength and resiliency and being a part of shifting the view people with a mental health and/or addiction concern might have of themselves from being a “patient” to being a student who is in charge of their own learning, growth and recovery!
Iftu: An average day at CMHA involves meeting with a peer to prep for a course. After class, we usually debrief and discuss what went well and what could have been improved. When I’m not co-facilitating I am creating content for an upcoming course. Right now I am working on a course called coping with current events in which we are teaching coping strategies to help process how we feel about issues facing the world today. Having my desk allocated in the Welcome Space really allows me to bounce ideas off of other Trainers and Peers so when I’m feeling stuck or unsure about a course.
Catherine: Every day presents something new. When I am co-facilitating a class, I am lucky enough to hear incredible stories, meet and chat with strong-minded individuals, whilst collectively working on building and strengthening self-awareness that helps to strengthen our recovery journey. When I am working in the Welcome Centre, I will chat and support others through shared experiences – you can drop by the Centre in person, call, or email.
Priscilla: There’s no such thing as an average day! Every day is different, and that’s what makes it so exciting! On a daily basis, we offer support via email, telephone, appointments and drop-ins. We run at least two to four Recovery College classes or drop-in classes every day, from education on finances, how food affects our mood, how to build healthy relationships, we even have yoga classes and get visits from our furry friends at PALS!
Lisa: I’m not an early riser so I like to get in a bit later and leave later. It’s normally very busy but always full of laughs and lots of hope. I meet with partners in the community to talk about Peer Support and the Recovery College. My team gives me the energy and inspiration to find support from donors and foundations in the community to make the Recovery College happen. Typically I am planning a for a new project or new opportunities for the Recovery College.
Who typically are your demographics/clients?
Sam: Junior High & High School Students, Youth ages 16 – 24, individuals, and caregivers
Iftu: I work with a variety of clients. I recently co-developed a Literacy and Parenting course geared towards English language learners. A majority of my students come from diverse backgrounds and upbringings.
Catherine: We never know who will walk through the doors, I’ve found over the last few months we are venturing out more and more in regards to age. Previously, we found an older population reached out, but now I am finding people of all ages are reaching out more and more which is great to see. Everyone deserves support.
Priscilla: The demographic ranges from all ages and people from all walks of life.
MaryLou: I am working in the Welcome Centre at our downtown location. It is a welcoming environment filled with peers, peer supporters and staff – all together and equal in approach and goals for mental health recovery! I spend my days with peers in the welcome centre and facilitating courses in the College. The people who venture through our doors are from every walk of life – each with their own story – each on their own journey. Here we promote connection with other peers – a central factor in the success in recovery. So many wonderful people to meet and work with every day!
Lisa: We have expanded our services to include students from the age of 16 and above recognizing the need to offer support to youth transitioning between services. Recovery College is open to anyone: individuals and family members, friends who see a benefit in taking one of our courses. No diagnosis is needed to access our program and all of the courses are free. We see anyone! From someone looking for a specific course that will help with their recovery journey, to those acknowledging that maybe they need to come to a course before it impacts their wellness, to those who have no clue where to start and just want to connect with someone who can help them figure things out.
Register for a Recovery College course here!