South­east Re­gion CMHA keep­ing up with chang­ing fo­cuses

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Ryan Dahlman

South­east Al­berta and namely Medicine Hat has been dev­as­tated with a dif­fi­cult stretch as there has been a sharp in­crease in sui­cides by mostly males in the past two months.

In ad­di­tion, there has been a lot of anec­do­tal dis­cus­sions about the over­whelm­ing amount of stress on so­cial me­dia.

This makes the job of Erin Reeder, Pro­grams Man­ager from Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion, Al­berta South­east Re­gion (ASER), all the more chal­leng­ing.

“We are striv­ing to be have ser­vices as based on the needs of the com­mu­nity and fill­ing those gaps in ser­vices amongst agen­cies,” ex­plains Reeder of the CMHA ASER such as the cre­ation of sup­port groups. “Re­cently with all of the sui­cides oc­cur­ring, it pulls a lot our fo­cus and it is pulled to help­ing in this area.”

In gen­eral terms, pro­gram­ming is based on need as­sess­ment in the past as well as re­quests made by spe­cific re­quests/con­tracts by all lev­els of civic and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment as well be­ing de­ter­mined as what is needed by ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, but fund­ing is also a fac­tor. So in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion with sui­cide aware­ness and preven­tion, the Medicine Hat of­fice has part­nered and col­lab­o­rated with Al­berta Health Ser­vices, the lo­cal po­lice depart­ment and oth­ers to find the best av­enues to help.

They work with dif­fer­ent agen­cies as Reeder de­scribes it to fill in the gaps of ser­vices amongst th­ese agen­cies. For ex­am­ple, there’s valu­able co­op­er­a­tion between pro­vin­cial so­cial ser­vices and CMHA in re­gards to the Per­ma­nent Sup­port­ive Hous­ing pro­gram where clients are given apart­ment) so they have some­place safe to live as they get the as­sis­tance they need to func­tion.

The chal­lenges they cur­rently face is a lack of staff due to cuts in fund­ing by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. Reeder says they lost both ad­dic­tions coun­sel­lors af­ter the pro­vin­cial bud­get cuts in April.

How­ever, when they got a boost to fund­ing due to COVID, they re­hired another coun­sel­lor and so the Ad­dic­tion Cri­sis Pro­gram can be bet­ter served. The ideas to sta­bi­lize “the in­di­vid­ual’s ad­dic­tion through stream­lined ac­cess to com­mu­nity re­source’s and re­duc­ing re­liance on emer­gency ser­vices.”

While they are grate­ful for the pri­vate and cor­po­rate do­na­tions they re­ceive and money they earn from con­tacts to teach pro­grams, hold sem­i­nars etc. from clients or sup­port­ers like the City of Medicine Hat and Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion of South­east Al­berta to name a cou­ple. Reeder says another chal­lenge be­sides the so­cio-eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties peo­ple are the pan­demic has thrown a chal­leng­ing curve in how they ad­min­is­ter the pro­grams as they have been forced to go to a much more virtual and so­cial me­dia for­mat.

Another pro­gram that is com­ing back of­fi­cially Oct. 28 is Whis­pers of Well­ness (WOW) which goes from 6:30-7:30 p.m. It is an ed­u­ca­tion peer sup­port group as part of the Men­tal Health Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram which fo­cuses on men­tal health and re­cov­ery. Note peo­ple will be re­quired to regis­ter weekly due to COVID re­stric­tions with a max­i­mum of eight peo­ple. It is a first come first serve ba­sis.

Be­sides WOW, there are men­tal health aware­ness events and in­for­ma­tion ta­bles and kiosks they get in­volved in. Sept. 10, the Medicine Hat Coun­selling Col­lec­tive hosted and or­ga­nized a silent vigil at River­side Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial Park and CMHA was there.

Cur­rently with all of those who have been tak­ing their own lives, the Re­gional Sui­cide Pro­gram has been given a lot of at­ten­tion.

There is a lot of work­shops of­fered re­lated to sui­cide aware­ness all start­ing with Ap­plied Sui­cide In­ter­ven­tion Skills Train­ing (ASIST). They range from adults who work with adults all the way through to those who work with chil­dren un­der 12.

Reeder says they were able to get a co­or­di­na­tor to han­dle sui­cide-preven­tion/recog­ni­tion type of pro­grams. It is a work in pro­grams, but there are some on­line pro­grams now.

Reeder says another pop­u­lar on­line course is the Re­cov­ery Col­lege which was de­vel­oped by the CMHA of­fice in Cal­gary and has spread to many ju­ris­dic­tions across Canada. There is one done by CMHA Leth­bridge. There are classes such as Adult­ing 101; Art of Friend­ship (Re­spon­si­bil­ity and Com­mit­ment/Value and In­tegrity) Find­ing Your Bal­ance and Cir­cle of Friends.

If you have any fur­ther ques­tions please con­tact the CMHA of­fice at 403-504-1811; email them at or visit the blog web­site at https://cmhawell­ness.word­­grams/

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