The name of CMHA Calgary’s Recovery College is a bit deceptive, as what you find when you walk through the doors is something very far from a traditional educational institution. Developed and facilitated by individuals who have walked their own mental health journeys, each course aims to inspire confidence and self-love while providing students with the opportunity to connect and learn from others on similar paths.
One of CMHA’s Recovery Trainer’s – someone who brings the training to life for students -, Iftu, describes it as “a place where people can just be themselves.”
“I guarantee that when you come here, you will feel a sense of belonging and hope,” she explains.
Along with a background in teaching, Iftu also identifies as a peer, having lost her brother only one year ago after his own struggle with mental health concerns. She describes falling into a depression after his loss, unable to talk about it with those who were close to her.
“In my family, we didn’t really talk about mental health, even after [my brother’s death],” she explains.
Yearning to learn more about mental health, and to use her skills to make a difference, Iftu felt she had found a home when she joined the team at CMHA Calgary.
“When I started here, when I started learning about mental health, I felt that it was therapeutic. It was really powerful to learn why this had happened to someone so close to me, and kind of understand what [my brother] was going through, but through other people.”
That’s the magic of Recovery College. People learning from people. Iftu explains that it’s unlike a traditional classroom. Everyone sits in a circle together. The facilitators guide the conversation, but participation from the students is where the real learning and healing happens.
“I love that. There are so many things that people are doing that I have been able to implement into my own life. It has been really rewarding,” Iftu explains.
Also rewarding is seeing the relationships that form between the students.
“When people are able to make a connection with someone, that’s the biggest thing. I am so happy. I think it makes a huge difference”
The Recovery College not only provides connection and the opportunity to learn valuable skills, it also gives people the courage to speak out about mental health beyond CMHA’s doors and break down the stigma that exists. She imagines how her brother’s life would have been different if he could have talked about it.
“Sometimes I think that, with my brother, if we had openly talked about [mental health], he would have been more open to seeing someone and really getting the help that he needed,” Iftu says. “There was so much shame and stigma attached to what he was going through, he never really sought the help that he ultimately needed.”
For those who are not sure if they are ready to sign up for a course, Iftu recommends first dropping by the Welcome Centre, grabbing a coffee, and connecting with one of the peer supporters. There is no commitment necessary and you are the leader of your own experience.
All programs at CMHA Calgary are free of charge and without waiting lists. In order to continue to ensure that no one is turned away, we need your support, which is why we’ve launched the Turni2We campaign.
Your donation can go a long way in helping someone feel like they belong, and that they matter. Donate today.
For more information about the Recovery College and Welcome Centre, visit www.recoverycollegecalgary.ca or stop by and feel the warmth and connection for yourself.
For those looking to connect with a peer support worker, you can come by in person, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403-297-1402 during the Welcome Centre’s opening hours (9:00 am – 4:00 pm Monday to Friday, and Tuesday and Wednesday from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm excluding holidays).