From Struggle to Strength: How Peer Support Builds Resilience and Supports Recovery


The path to recovery is seldom easy, but it is marked by moments of strength, resilience, and the courage to make a change. Peer Support Workers embody that courage to make profound differences on the lives of individuals with mental health or substance use concerns.

At CMHA Calgary, Peer Support Workers are an integral part of our mission to achieve mental health for all. Between co-developing our programs and facilitating our courses, Peer Support Workers also play a life-changing role for those seeking mental health support at CMHA Calgary’s Welcome Centre and through our Peer Line – both in-person and virtually.

The School of Peer Support was established for that reason. This transformative program provides students with the tools and hands-on training necessary to become effective Peer Support Workers at CMHA Calgary – and beyond! School of Peer Support student, Kyla (she/her), sat down with us to share what inspired her to join the Peer Support movement and her experience thus far in the program.

What inspired you to apply for the School of Peer Support?

In 2022, Kyla attended the School of Peer Support after she dealt with mental health and substance use concerns for much of her life, but especially into 2021.

“I was alarmed at the state of the mental health crisis in 2021 and on the streets in Calgary, and in particular, Edmonton. While I was houseless, I could see there was a desperate need for more resources. I wanted to find meaning in my relapse. I knew that I wanted to help people, but I also knew that I needed to have boundaries, support, and accountability.”

What were you hoping to gain from attending?

“I was hoping to gain skills and to be employed as a Peer Support Worker. A lot of people in recovery struggle with employment. But what I’ve realized is it’s going to help me in so much more than just a job or a volunteer position. It’s allowing me to have more productive personal relationships – to be a better friend, and to help people when they are reaching out. It’s been empowering.”

Quote from Kyla reading, "[Peer Support] is allowing me to have more more productive personal relationships – to be a better friend, and to help people when they are reaching out. It’s been empowering.”

How would you describe the classroom experience?

“The class values connection over content, but through the connection I’ve developed with the facilitators and with the other people in the class, the content comes through the connection. There are many resources that I’ve gotten through the facilitation team and my classmates. It’s given me a lot of hope and generating hope is really what the program is about.”

Name one takeaway you have from the program curriculum.

“What has stood out to me the most is that the essence of Peer Support is holding space. I thought that that was such an intangible concept, but through what I’ve learned I realized there is tangibility to it. It is actionable and a skill we can develop through vulnerability.”

How has attending impacted you?

“When I was in early recovery in 2021, I knew that I needed some structure, accountability, and support. I’ve been able to find all of that through my peers and facilitators at the School of Peer Support. It’s not just training, it’s become integrated into my life. I’ve noticed myself changing because of it.”

What would you say to someone considering applying for the School of Peer Support?

“Anyone has the experience, the skill, and the talent to be a Peer Support Worker because your story becomes the meaningful work that you are doing. The more that you put into your own journey, the more that you learn about other people’s journeys, it just builds momentum. We have all struggled through the last few years, it’s been very difficult. One of the aims of the program is to find meaning in that struggle. I think people who are wanting to help others, who are touched by mental health issues, and who are looking to find meaning in their own recovery are the perfect people to apply for the School of Peer Support.”

Are you ready to turn your lived experiences into a source of empowerment and support for others? Are you passionate about mental health recovery and eager to make a lasting impact? Apply now for the School of Peer Support and experience 83 hours of comprehensive training, 50 hours of hands-on practicum experience, and countless opportunities to connect with the Peer Supporter Community of Practice.

All individuals interested in becoming a student must apply by July 28, 2023, and go through an interview process for acceptance into the program. Click here for more information.

*This interview has been shortened and edited for conciseness and readability. 

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You are not alone. There is help.

If you cannot find someone you trust who is willing to support you, dial a crisis line right away at 403-266-HELP (4357) or find 24-hour online support with Distress Centre Calgary. All crisis lines are confidential.

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