The Women of CMHA Calgary

The Women of CMHA Calgary

International Women’s Day 2021

Every year, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8.

A day of strength, reflection and promise for a brighter and prosperous future for women everywhere.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect, learn and celebrate the incredible progress that women have made in establishing gender equality in their homes, workplaces, industries, etc.

Every year, the United Nations (UN) decides on a particular theme. In 2021, they decided, “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.

This theme focuses on the female frontline workers that have risked their own lives to save those affected by the COVID-19 virus. These women are health care workers, caregivers, leaders, innovators, community organizers, and workplace champions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the absolute importance of their contributions.

In honour of this year’s theme, we would like to highlight some of the incredible women that are crucial in the deliverance of our mental health programs and services at CMHA Calgary.

Meet the Team

Natalie McCaskill

Q. Can you tell me in a sentence or two what you do for CMHA Calgary?

“I am a Team Leader of one of CMHA Calgary’s post-discharge programs. I work with my team to help support and stabilize individuals coming out of the hospital and transitioning them into independent living.”

Q. Why did you choose to work with Calgary’s mental health community?

“I noticed gaps in the mental health system when I was quite young and wanted to be part of the solution in changing this. I also noticed a huge gap in the consideration of trauma in the treatment of mental health and have strived to incorporate this into my own practice.”

Q. “What women inspire you?”

“Both of my grandmas were the most influential women in my life. I have learned so many hard lessons from them both that have helped shape me into the woman I am today.”

Q. What is an essential self-care regime you practice?

“Bath bombs, face masks, tattoos and yoga are my go-to self-care practices.”

Q. What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

“I am more driven, ambitious and resilient than I have ever given myself credit for.”

Q. What impact do you want to make in your line of work?

“I want to go home every day knowing I have made a positive impact in someone’s life.”


Hannah Ding

Q. Can you tell me in a sentence or two what you do for CMHA Calgary?

“[I am] part of the Finance Team to record transactions and maintain CMHA’s book complete and accurate. I also facilitate receipts and payment processes, perform accounts and period end reconciliation and analysis.”

Q. Why did you choose to work with Calgary’s mental health community?

“I’m inspired by CMHA Calgary’s mission and hope to contribute to this society. [CMHA Calgary] is a nice organization to work with and the people are softhearted.”

Q. What women inspire you?

“A YouTuber [who is a] Chinese young lady [named] Hellen in Australia.”

Q. What is an essential self-care regime you practice?

“Christian belief is sufficient for me to overcome all types of challenges, maintain peace and full of hope.”

Q. What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

“Work/study hard and keep on learning, think out of the box and dare to try, be grateful to live and people around me.”

Q. What impact do you want to make in your line of work?

“Strong support to clients, co-workers and the organization, know-how and can-do.”


Kirstin Kruk

Q. Can you tell me in a sentence or two what you do for CMHA Calgary? 

“I currently work as a Program Team Lead for the Supportive Living Post-Discharge Program at Hamilton House. Previous to that, I worked in the Supportive Living Apartment Program.”

Q. Why did you choose to work with Calgary’s mental health community?


“I chose to work with Calgary’s mental health community because I am passionate about the advocacy of wellness within the mental health community and advocate for both awareness and the act of living well with any mental health condition. I feel that the work I do truly changes people’s lives, and I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on those struggling with a mental health condition.”

Q. What women inspire you?


“I am inspired by all of the women close to me. From my mother, to my sister, to my best friend, and Nana who is 94 years old, these women are strong, kind, and generous with their heart and ears. They truly inspire me every day!

I would also have to say that I am inspired by Brene Brown, an American Research Professor, who studied the power of vulnerability. It is so difficult to be vulnerable both in the workplace and in our personal lives, as we fear the repercussions, when in fact it’s actually an empowering quality to have.”

Q. What is an essential self-care regime you practice?


“An essential self-care regime that I practice is spending quality time with myself and those that I love. Whether it is with my partner, my silly and energetic dog, Arya, or myself, it is important that I take the time to do what makes me happy. Getting out of my regular environment and travelling to places that bring me peace and rejuvenation such as my grandparents beach house in Florida, is something that I love to do. Oh and also, an ice cream cone from Cows in Banff on a hot summer day can’t be beat!”

Q. What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

“I’ve learned that although the last year has thrown me a lot of curve balls both professionally and personally, its allowed me to dig more internally and discover that I’m strong, adaptable, and capable of accepting new challenges.”

Q. What impact do you want to make in your line of work?


“I want to exude optimism and hope within those that may be facing adversity. I want to bring sparks of positivity and joy to those that I serve and guide them on the path to wellness and recovery.”


Jade Soltice

Q. Can you tell me in a sentence or two what you do for CMHA Calgary? 

“I am the Outcomes Auditing and Training Coordinator. I develop and facilitate training and auditing related to the data integrity, collection and use of our client information management database.”

Q. Why did you choose to work with Calgary’s mental health community? 

“I believe in the resiliency of the people we serve and the talents of our staff to encourage that resiliency.”

Q. What women inspire you? 

“My mother. She immigrated to Canada from the Philippines and she built an incredible life for my family. I’m in awe of her ability to make meaningful connections with others.”

Q. What is an essential self-care regime you practice? 

“A full night’s sleep is essential to my wellness. Like my children, I have a bedtime. I wholeheartedly recommend bedtimes for adults.”

Q. What have you learned about yourself in the past year? 

“I am an extroverted introvert. I could spend hours in video chats with friends and hours in my garage building something by myself; both activities give me energy.”

Q. What impact do you want to make in your line of work? 

“I want to make evaluation and outcomes measurement tools accessible and understandable to ultimately give staff and the people we serve insight into the impact of their work together.”


Theresa Frankel

Q. Can you tell me in a sentence or two what you do for CMHA Calgary?

“At CMHA Calgary I am a family peer support worker. Like those within the CMHA Calgary team, I use my lived experience around mental health to support individuals who may be looking for hope and encouragement within their own journey.”

Q. Why did you choose to work with Calgary’s mental health community?

“On my journey through recovery, I never felt others would understand the experiences and challenges I was going through. I had a challenging time putting words to what I was feeling inside, and I felt isolated from my family and friends. My Elders taught me how important it is to know myself in all my fullness so I could understand how I can help myself and my family when times are challenging. I was not sure how I could know myself fully when I could not understand how my mental health was impacting my daily life. I needed to be a part of a community that talked about mental health and celebrated my journey’s strength while I considered the areas I needed to work on.

Through the Peer Support program, I learned about the recovery journey of a parent or caretaker. I believe I was not able to understand myself because I had been so worried about the wellness of my family member that I was not taking care of myself and did not consider the support I also needed.

Our teachings and lived experience are so important not only to ourselves but also to our community. I see the unique contributions each of us offers to make a community and I wanted to work alongside my neighbours, friends, and family to support each other towards a shared wellness. CMHA Calgary gives me that opportunity to be a part of the larger community of Calgary where we can share our experiences, honor our strength, and recognize the importance of mental health within each of our lives.”

Q. What women inspire you?

“As women, we all have exceptional stories to share and they all come from a place of strength and power. We may not always recognize our own gifts or strength that we carry and therefore, I am inspired by the women that honour the lives and stories of others and strive to empower people exactly where they are.”

Q. What is an essential self-care regime you practice?

“My culture is an essential self-care regime I practice. As an Indigenous woman within the city, it is easy for me to be forgetful of my teachings if I am not thoughtful of them, as they are so closely tied to the land and ceremony.

It is important to me to offer gratitude towards all aspects of my life. Even the challenging times. This helps me to remember that I am always learning and to be kind to myself. By spending time outside, I am reminded of the natural gifts of our land and my personal health. The land reminds me of the choices I can make to take care of it, much like my own self.

By spending time outside, I am reminded that my wellness is dependent on my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical self. Like the ecology of the Earth, I am not always balanced. But with gratitude and kindness, I can work towards a stronger self.”

Q. What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

“This past year, I have learned that our community has exceptionally strong women. The strongest women I have encountered have walked through their own shadows, not always knowing their own resiliency. This, in turn, has helped me to understand my own strength through my own story. I received my traditional name, Nôsemaskwa or Mother Bear from my Elders this past year. My personal story is not an easy one, but I am learning that my experiences are my teachings and to be kind to myself.”

Q. What impact do you want to make in your line of work?

“When I look at myself, I see an imperfect cracked rock. I can be hard and jagged but like all cracked rocks, I have the potential to be a soft steppingstone for others if I allow new growth to fill the cracked space. As a support worker, I strive to be a person where one can safely share their stories and together, we can build a path for soft landings in our community.”


Joanne Dial

Q. Can you tell me in a sentence or two what you do for CMHA Calgary?

“I participate and volunteer [with CMHA Calgary]. It started with a team in the 2019 Ride Don’t Hide and now I’m on the Board of Directors and chair of the Governance, Planning and Risk Committee.”

Q. Why did you choose to work with Calgary’s mental health community?

“My son Spencer completed suicide in 2018 and needless to say, our family was gutted by this loss that came with neither warning nor reason. My spouse and I found solace in the Life after Loss program offered by CMHA Calgary and wanted to offer something back.”

Q. What women inspire you?

“All women that stand and evolve through the adversity that touches their lives.”

Q. What is an essential self-care regime you practice?

“I often walk with others. I feel balanced when I extend myself and nurture relationships with women whether they are soaring, struggling, leading, following, lonely or happy.”

Q. What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

“I’ve come to learn that I’m still a force and, for that, I am grateful. I’ve worked on my mental health in order to survive and now I’m starting to thrive again by being my authentically bold, enthusiastic, empathetic, kind and sassy self. The past year has driven home the realization that it’s in the vulnerable mix of emotions that one’s true self can surface.”

Q. What impact do you want to make in your line of work?

“I work to help organizations build teams that accomplish dreams by concentrating on their people practices. I focus on helping people embrace the benefits of candid, succinct and timely communication. I believe it is integral to success and positive relationships both in and out of work.”


Stephanie Lessa

Q. Can you tell me in a sentence or two what you do for CMHA Calgary?

“I am a Peer Support Worker and a School of Peer Support Faculty with CMHA Calgary. I like to describe my role as being a professional friend.”

Q. Why did you choose to work with Calgary’s mental health community?

“I got involved with CMHA Calgary around March of 2017 to access Peer Support and Recovery College. I fell in love with the philosophy of Peer Support and how humane the recovery model is. It inspired me to become a better person and to learn more. Also, the work culture is genuine and caring. We are one big empathetic family looking after one another.”

Q. What women inspire you?

“Women bring a much-needed energy to this world. An energy that is based on determination, resiliency, kindness, creativity. I believe this world needs more from our feminine energy in order to heal and grow.”

Q. What is an essential self-care regime you practice?

“My self-care practice tends to be introspective. I love spending time in nature because it makes me feel connected to something greater and pure than my own self.

Also, journaling and poetry have been part of my recovery since I was 17. I have always found it helpful to turn negative energy into something positive, meaningful and beautiful.

Lastly, mindfulness. Peer Support can take a lot of your energy since you do your best to connect, support and understand others’ through your own experiences and struggles. I find mindfulness helps me to ground and restore myself.”

Q. What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

“Life can always change without notice. I have found out I am more adaptable and resilient than I used to think. Last year proved to be challenging both personal and professional, however, I am grateful for all the meaningful lessons and knowledge I have acquired about myself. Knowledge is a wonderful force.”

Q. What impact do you want to make in your line of work?

“I want to support our peers to feel safe, connected and not alone. I find recovery to be an introspective process, however, we don’t have to go through this journey feeling lost or hopeless. If I can support a peer to find that hope and smile, I believe I will have done a meaningful part in changing their world for the better.”


Karen Gallagher-Burt

Q. Can you tell me in a sentence or two what you do for CMHA Calgary?

“My role is to connect the amazing work CMHA Calgary does to the community at large. Creating a culture of philanthropy and communications both internal and external keep my team very busy.”

Q. Why did you choose to work with Calgary’s mental health community?

“My two passions have always been kids and mental health. The two have intertwined over the years but it has always been my desire to change the world for, and with our youth, to ensure that generations to come have a healthier world to live in as it pertains to their WHOLE health, not just mental health.”

Q. What women inspire you?

“So many!  I am a bigger reader and amazing writers and researchers inspire me. I am a big fan of Margaret Wheatley and Brene Brown and I try and live by many of their guidelines. I am also inspired by many women I work with at CMHA Calgary and in the broader not-for-profit world.”

Q. What is an essential self-care regime you practice?

“Two things are critical to my mental health. Walking outside every day, even when we were in the polar vortex in mid-February, is critical for my well-being.  The second one is physical touch. I am a hugger, a snuggler and a cuddler. My partner has been my go-to during COVID for hugs, but I miss hugging my friends.”

Q. What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

“I have learned many things: I cannot bake bread. I don’t want to learn a new hobby. And I have the ability to help others AND myself, even in a virtual world. Evening chats with girlfriends and seeing my therapist virtually are all critical to my health.”

Q. What impact do you want to make in your line of work?

“I used to say I wanted to change the world. But I am getting too tired for the whole world and have settled on Calgary—maybe Alberta. But I know that my teams focus on sharing our programs and inviting people to be participants in the shift and stigma reduction IS changing Calgary. I am so proud to be a part of that change.”

These are only a small handful of the incredible, caring, and hardworking women we have at CMHA Calgary!

We couldn’t do our work within the community without each and every one of them.

Our Peer Support program services can be accessed over the phone at 403-297-1402 or through email at peer@cmha.calgary.ab.ca. Counselling programs for Suicide Bereavement and Family Support are also still available through phone at 403-297-1708, email counsellingintake@cmha.calgary.ab.ca or online through Community Connect YYC.