- CMHA: Tell me about yourself and your position at CMHA Calgary?
Jackie and Cassie: We are the Community Recreation Coordinators of the Continuing Connections program, a branch of Alberta Health Service’s Applied Behaviour Collaboration (ABC) team. We work as part of a team of mental health clinicians, educators, and psychiatric nurses. Both of us have a background in therapeutic recreation and are registered provincially or nationally certified professionals. Neither of us is native to Calgary with Cassie being from Vancouver and Jackie from Ontario but both of us have come to know many resources and services around Calgary that we utilize in our everyday work!
Lee Ann and Dara: I am the Recreation Coordinators with CMHA.I have worked with CMHA for nearly five years. Calgary has been my home for six years now.
- CMHA: Describe an average day at CMHA Calgary?
Jackie and Cassie: Typically we work at each facility two days a week each where we may be working 1:1 with an individual, facilitating group programs or supporting clients in attending recreation programs of interest. In its simplest form, we use recreation and leisure as a method of building skills that assist in community involvement and recovery.
Lee Ann and Dara: [Our] average day consists of answering telephone calls and emails from fellow Staff members and Clients, planning and researching activities that may encourage our Members, creating flyers and calendars that promote our recreation programs, going bowling, preparing for a crafting group, working with our Members to prepare them to attend an upcoming group, working on a bus outing, planning a special event such as our Holiday Party at the Holiday Inn…..and the list goes on
- CMHA: Who typically are your demographics/clients?
Jackie and Cassie: In our role, we work with adults aged 18-65 who live with mental illness and also currently live in long-term care. Specifically, we work in four long-term care facilities including Carewest Garrison Green and Carewest Dr. Vernon Fanning Centre (which Jackie coordinates) as well as Glamorgan Care Centre and Bethany Care Society Calgary (which Cassie coordinates).
Lee Ann and Dara: [Our] clients are persons that are current CMHA clients.
- CMHA: What is the most challenging part of your position?
Jackie and Cassie: We are a unique program of CMHA in that our clientele are not community-dwelling adults and due to high medical or care needs they are required to live in a long-term care setting. This means that our clientele could be a 25 year old living in a shared space with seniors affected by Dementia, a 60 year old man no longer able to leave a secured unit independently due to degenerative disease which causes accessibility barriers, or a 40 year old person who is no longer able to live with or care for their children in their own home. Not only is each client and their circumstances unique in many ways but each facility and team environment that we work in is so different, which can be very challenging. However, while this is a challenge it is also what makes our role so interesting and exciting every day!
Lee Ann and Dara: [We] think the most challenging part of [our] job is motivating our Members. Recreation is often a part of Recovery that takes a back seat when it actually has the ability to increase self-esteem, create friendships, maintain physical health, create opportunities for independence, and so on.
- CMHA: What is the most rewarding part of your position?
Jackie and Cassie: When clients are referred to us for support and engagement they often have few opportunities for socialization or community involvement and spend a lot of time alone in their rooms. When we are able to develop a relationship with that client and see small changes in their mood, body language, expressions, and involvement in meaningful leisure endeavors it shows that our role in their life has been positive. There is nothing better than a client greeting you with a smile, saying they looked forward to seeing you or having them tell you about a recreation activity they enjoyed participating in since you last saw them. Every day we get to see how recreation and leisure can educate, develop coping skills, develop resiliency, and build hope in the lives of those living in long-term care.
Lee Ann and Dara: A rewarding part of [our] job is observing a change. [We] love to see how a new person has worked past their barriers to get to a program and then as time goes on they become comfortable and self-confident. It is great to see the pride that people show when they leave our groups with a tangible item.
- CMHA: You deal with difficult topics and subject matters, how do you take care of yourself when you’re not working?
Jackie and Cassie: It is really important to ‘practice what we preach’ which is why we both make sure to take time to ourselves to participate in recreation and leisure as self-care in our personal lives. Jackie likes to spend time in the outdoors hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing or running as well as spending quiet time alone to decompress when needed. Cassie enjoys getting regular physical activity by going to her community gym as well as spending time outside with her dog Tyson.
Lee Ann and Dara: We do often deal with difficult situations. [Lee Ann] I enjoy listening to “80’s hairband” music in the car, I look forward to watching my favorite TV shows, and I adore giving my gorgeous fur boy lots of love.
- CMHA: If you could say anything about mental health and its significance what would you say?
Jackie and Cassie: Working in this field makes you realize just how common mental illness is and that so many people have been touched by mental illness in their lifetime. We are seeing so many positive changes in education about mental health, community resources, and changes in approaches to care for those affected by mental illness – it is a very exciting time to be a part of! It is truly a privilege to be in a position to where we are able to connect with individuals in vulnerable times of their lives and see the effects of our work in recreation and leisure for recovery.