Southeast Region CMHA keeping up with changing focuses
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 aser@CMHA-aser.ca or visit the blog website at https://cmhawellness.wordpress.com/programs/