What is the most rewarding part of your position?
Meghan: The relationships I have with my co-workers and members of the community. It is really interesting to learn about other people and agencies to see how we can support each other. I absolutely love all of the relationships I have built with the Peer Supporters and the Recovery Trainers, so I really enjoy coming into work every day to connect with them.
Sam: It’s hard to narrow it down but I’d have to say the most rewarding part of my position has been working in an extremely supportive and uplifting environment. I’m so lucky to be working with people (co-workers and Recovery College Students) who really remind me how precious life is and to practice gratitude. Being surrounded by people who are living, breathing examples of the strength we all possess and of how complex and beautiful it is to be a human being living life to the fullest.
Simrat: The most rewarding part of my position is being able to practice a value that has always been close to my heart – being a lifelong learner. Every time I sit in a classroom with a group of people, I see an amazing connection build over time and also get the opportunity to see people grow in their recovery through learning. In addition, the wisdom is always in the classroom and I also learn from all of my students which supports my own recovery journey.
Iftu: Being able to create a safe space for the students at the Recovery College is so crucial. Seeing the students practice tolerance in the classroom is so inspiring to witness. The most rewarding part of my position is listening to the stories of resilience and hope shared within the classroom. At the end of each session, the students are so grateful and it really makes me feel like our work matters here at CMHA.
Catherine: The most rewarding part of my position is to watch people progress, and grow! The transition can be incredible, and I’m constantly reminded of how strong people are.
Priscilla: The absolute most rewarding part of my position is simply hearing a peer say “thank you.” Knowing that the support we offer sparks hope and joy in people again and that they realize they are not alone is worth everything!
MaryLou: The most rewarding part of my position is the ability to connect with so many amazing personalities! I value each person I meet, and take away new lessons, inspiration, and insight into living a life of recovery!
Lisa: Knowing that we can offer services to people straight away. Hearing the stories of our students, our trainers and peers. Listening to the magic that can happen in a class.
What is the most challenging part of your position?
Meghan: Coordinating the schedules of 27 staff members so that all the courses we want to deliver are delivered and covered by one Recovery Trainer and one Peer Supporter.
Sam: The most challenging part of my position by far is only having 24 hours in a day. There are so many exciting things going on, amazing ideas sprouting up, new course concepts we want to develop its hard not to take on everything. It’s definitely a challenge to narrow it all down to what will bring the most value and to really give those ideas the attention they deserve.
Simrat: I think the most challenging part of my position has been developing a course to meet a range of needs for our diverse students. As I begin to deliver our new courses, it has been refreshing to see the knowledge among students and how easily adaptable course content can be in a classroom full of connected people. This feedback has been valuable as we continue to develop the next set of courses for the Recovery College.
Iftu: The most challenging part of my position is creating content that meets the needs of everyone in the course. Often time’s people are hoping to get different things from a course. As part of my job, I have to ensure that the material is engaging and purposeful for everyone in the room. Also ensuring that content is challenging but also not too demanding is important when creating and facilitating for a diverse group of people.
Catherine: One of the most challenging parts of my position is to see someone struggle because we as a peer team can understand and relate to the struggle through our own lived experience. Which is why I believe it is so important to create a sense of community, so everyone knows they have at least one other person in their corner.
Priscilla: The most challenging part for me in my position is remembering self-care. It’s easy to fall into a position of wanting to help everyone and take care of them, but we’re not effective when we are not our best selves!
MaryLou: The most challenging part of my position as facilitator is to attend all the different groups that we have here at CMHA! I enjoy spending social time with peers at the Circle of Friends and also enjoy attending the Welcome Wednesday to invite new peers to CMHA, and the drop in group, Treat Yourself Tuesday. It is also fun to visit with the puppies of PALS or relax with some yoga with Bodhi Tree!
You deal with difficult topics and subject matters, how do you take care of yourself when you’re not working?
Meghan: I Netflix and chill, play video games with my husband or connect with friends. I also share my house with two cats and a beagle, so I spend a lot of time cuddling animals too.
Sam: I like to spend time laughing with my loved ones, playing with my puppy, practicing yoga and getting amongst nature.
Simrat: The concept of self-care is a constant hot topic in our classrooms so it is always a nice reminder of how I can incorporate a self-care routine on a daily basis. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, attend the gym for a great workout or yoga class, and enjoy cooking nutritional and healthy recipes.
Iftu: I write down all my positive and negative thoughts in a journal that I later use to create poetry and spoken word from. When I’m not writing for self-care, I love reading inspirational books, listening to audiobooks, and podcasts. On the weekends I love spending time with my nephews that remind me how joyful life really is.
Catherine: I definitely make sure to pay attention to my self-care so I can stay mentally healthy as well. I enjoy working out and being involved with the fitness community! Win-win, mental health + physical health = whole health.
Priscilla: I like to meditate and journal a lot. Anything I can do where I am using my hands or being creative (and getting out of my own head) is very healing and therapeutic for me.
MaryLou: Self-care is important in keeping perspective, energy and optimism. I take care of myself via peer support, nature walks, time at the cabin and engaging in one of my many pastimes of crocheting, reading, colouring, painting, setting puzzles and building a dollhouse.
If you could say anything about mental health and its significance what would you say?
Meghan: Mental health enhances who you are, whether you are struggling or doing really well. It is something that connects us all because it is something we all experience daily. Connection is key in appreciating the ups and downs of our individual mental health, as it shows us that we are resilient regardless of our current situation.
Sam: For me, this is a constantly evolving thought. There is so much to be said about mental health and so many important conversations being had that are constantly changing the way we view our mental health and the way we support our loved ones. It’s exciting to see more and more people embracing that mental health is just as important as physical health, that their challenges don’t define them and finding ways of coming more and more into their best selves. I want to thank those who have bravely added their voices to these conversations. Your words inspire and empower every single day. To those who are on a quieter journey, or are struggling, know that you can do this and you are not alone.
Simrat: Exposure to mental illness has been a part of my life as long as I can remember as a close family member living with the challenge. Through my own lived and work experience in mental health, the positive evolution in the field has contributed to a feeling of acceptance and hope to live a fulfilling life. This acceptance has shown the power of our peer support model, where we can walk alongside our peers who have experienced similar challenges, which has been very supportive!
Iftu: I can’t say enough how important it is to end the stigma surrounding mental health. When someone is physically unhealthy we talk about it and find ways to treat it right away. The same needs to be true for mental health. I can see the ways in which CMHA is trying to end the stigma, but I also know that so much more needs to be done to ensure that mental health resources are accessible to all people. I’m so proud of being a part of Recovery College because I truly believe that through education for empowerment, we are moving in the right direction towards ending the stigma for all people.
Catherine: Mental health IS important. We all live with mental health, we all experience the different emotions that life can throw at us, and that’s why I believe it is so important to talk about it. I believe it is vital that we normalize conversation surrounding mental health so that people can feel safe and know they can reach out when they need to and there will be someone that will reach back with a listening, non-judgmental ear. I am truly blessed to be a part of the peer movement, and I hope our community keeps growing.
Priscilla: As a peer recovery trainer, I would say that I hope people realize that recovery is possible and an ongoing journey. It’s so important for everyone to take their power back and control of their own lives, thoughts and feelings. Don’t let any outside influences affect that process because we are all the bosses of our own lives!
MaryLou: Mental health is a vital part of every person’s quality of life. One of the biggest threats to mental health that I can see is the lack of connection. Individuals in current society are so focused on independence and self-protection that we have forgotten that connection to other people is essential to the ongoing, healthy development of our self-construct, self-esteem, and mental, spiritual and emotional health. At CMHA, this central premise underlines all that we do – peer support helps people to reconnect to themselves and others and is essential in helping people begin and maintain their journey forward with the support of others.
Lisa: You are not alone. When we share our vulnerabilities and our own journey, we open up and make our relationships matter. You can connect with us during any stage of your journey – everyone is welcome.