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Introducing the Community Engagement Toolkit

The Community Mental Health Engagement Toolkit was developed to support people looking to engage their communities in impactful ways around the conversation of mental health.  It provides a framework as well as some engagement tools people can use to start the conversation and explore possibilities – whether that is in the workplace or beyond.

 

This blog was written by Launa Clark, Community Mental Health Facilitator at Imagine Institute of Learning 

The role of mental health has become a top conversation on front porches, zoom rooms, and Olympic arenas –  basically through all communities. It is clearly becoming evident that everyone has their own mental health story.  It is in that spirit that we have created a tool to support community members and organizations to continue the conversation and engage others to build a safe and common language to talk about our mental health stories.

This tool starts with you, the person reading this, Your Story Matters! The tools and activities in this resource focus on how you can build relationships, awareness, opportunities, and innovation about mental well-being in your community.  This tool includes 15 ready-to-go activities focused on building a communities common language and understanding of what is need to care for each other within a community.

Example Activity:

What if… everyone completed their own 7-sentence story about mental health? What a story we could tell.  How would you finish each of the following prompts using your story?

  1. In my life, I am a … (what roles do you play? Parent, caregiver, spouse …)
  2. I work / live with … (identify your connection to mental health – personal or professional)
  3. I frequently experience … (how does this work impact you? Physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally …)
  4. Because of this … (what impact does this have on your behaviour?)
  5. Because of that … (how has this impacted your life / attitudes?)
  6. It would make a difference in my life if I had …
  7. My biggest wish is … (what would make thesystem / services / providers, better?)

What if we had everyone’s 7-sentence story to build our own community story? It will surely show the impact that Our Story Matters! Give it a try, you don’t need anyone’s permission to take care of your community.

2021-11-25T15:40:02+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

When Workplaces Don’t Work with Mental Health

Written by Allison Tunis, an award-winning visual artist and community arts facilitator working on Treaty 6 land in Amiskwaciwâskahikan. She is also the Administrative Backbone Support for the Community Mental Health Action Plan and active in community organizing. 

When we think about disabilities, especially in the workplace, mental illness is often overlooked . While we may recognize that mental illnesses can be difficult to cope with and impact someone’s ability to work, employees with disabilities are often under-supported. Layers of ableism (the discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or perceived to be disabled), ignorance, misinformation, and lack of consideration have created barriers to accessing supports for people with mental illnesses. When we talk about equity for people with disabilities in the workplace, we need to include people with mental illnesses and include disabled people of all backgrounds in the creation of policies and supports.  

Over the last 14 years, I have worked 15 different jobs, with many resulting in burn-out and mental health decline. Despite being diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses in my early 20s, for a long time I thought it was just me—that I just hadn’t found the right work or maybe everyone felt like this about their jobs and I just needed to learn to cope.  

Even as a trained mental health therapist and frontline social services worker, I did not have the resources or supports to effectively care for my own mental health and was not supported to work in ways that might promote better personal mental health.  

For instance, many Employee Assistance and benefits programs have strict limitations for counselling and mental health support, with maximums of $350 per year, even for those working in high trauma work. For many years, I alternated between working full-time (struggling with mental health because I needed to work to survive), and not working at all (or working very minimally) while recovering from the mental health episodes and reduced capacity that that would inevitably come from working in ways that my body, mind, and soul could not sustain.  

After repeated burn-outs and added trauma from frontline work, I finally had no choice but to start working in ways that actually prioritized my mental health needs, such as reducing my hours per week, flexing my days and hours based on my day-to-day health, and working from home (an option that has been much more common since the pandemic began and which has made work significantly more accessible for many people). However, most workplaces don’t support these types of accommodations or don’t plan to indefinitely. This means that out of necessity, I am now self-employed, less stable in my financial security, and without benefits. Yet, I  am paying $180 per session for counselling and nearly $200 per month in mental health prescriptions, as these are non-negotiable in my treatment. I still struggle to effectively take care of my mental health, mainly because I do not have the resources to do so, even when making it the top priority in my life. 

So what?

I am not unique. There are millions of people who live with mental health-related disabilities, and many of them are not able to access the needed supports, health benefits, or accommodations to allow them to contribute in the ways they are able to. The barriers of conventional, inaccessible workplaces are actually part of what is contributing to people with mental health disabilities being “unable” to work.

If we put more consideration into making workplaces inclusive for people with mental illnesses, ultimately we end up with a larger, more diverse, and healthier workforce. I see no downsides. I want to work, but I don’t want to make myself sick to do so. 

 To read more about implementing innovative and evidence-informed practices around mental health, please visit the Community Mental Health Action Plan’s Shared Wisdom Guide

The Mental Health Commission of Canada also offers Workplace Mental Health toolkits and resources to help workplaces support the mental health of their employees.

Learn more about mental health disabilities:

 

Image List:

‘Internal Thoughts, mixed media and gel transfer on mylar, Allison Tunis, 2007.

An exploration of my intrusive thoughts and complex feelings when I was first seeking treatment and support for mental health issues.

‘Untitled’ Chronic Illness Self-Portrait, mixed media and embroidery on Aida cloth, Allison Tunis, 2020.

The first of a larger dual-sided embroidery portrait series that explores multiple individuals’ experiences with chronic illness, including mental health. Supported by the Edmonton Arts Council, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Canada Council for the Arts. Series completion expected end of 2022.

 

2021-11-19T20:25:25+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

Trauma-Informed Care: Training that can Benefit Anyone

The Community Mental Health Action Plan partners with many organizations that play a significant role in improving addiction and mental health supports and services in Edmonton and surrounding areas. One of our valued partners is the Imagine Institute For Learning, a provincial organization dedicated to the advancement of best practices, research-based professional learning, and community engagement for everyone who works with children and families. Imagine offers a variety of training courses for mental health and suicide prevention, one of which is Trauma-Informed Care.

70% of people have experienced at least one traumatic event in their life.1

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) training takes an in-depth look at what trauma is, the biological response to trauma, and behaviours that it may cause. It teaches people how to apply this knowledge to their work and personal life. Although this training is often taken by service providers in the social and mental health fields, it is a course that can be beneficial for anyone. There is a high likelihood that any person you interact with is coping with one or more traumas1. Most people do not develop a disorder from a traumatic event; however, it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some cases. Research shows that creating awareness and recognition in the community can go a long way to preventing difficulties for those coping with trauma.

“It is not what’s wrong with them. It’s what happened to them.”

Through understanding trauma, we can approach others with more empathy, and perhaps too, be kinder to ourselves as we may also be coping with trauma. TIC training has already been expanding beyond the service provider sector to areas such as education. Imagine Institute recently held a training session for teachers in the Red Deer area that demonstrated the need for this training.

“I believe every person involved in a child’s development (from parents to bus drivers to school staff) should have some level of training in Trauma Informed Care. It has been very informative and provides tools that can be employed starting today.” – Testimonial from a teacher in the Red Deer Trauma-Informed Care Training session

You can find upcoming courses for Trauma-Informed Care or other free training sessions on the Imagine Institute For Learning website. AHS also has online Trauma-Informed Care modules available that are valuable for learning about trauma for those who are unable to make the in-person (currently virtual) TIC training. If you want to find more opportunities to learn about TIC and other mental health training, check out the Mental Health Training Framework.

Please note:  Course content has sensitive topics that may be triggering for some people.

References:

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6603306/

2021-09-22T17:04:29+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

How 211 Alberta Can Help During a Pandemic

How 211 Alberta Can Help During a Pandemic

During a pandemic or disaster, things change quickly. Government supports and social services might be closed, have limited hours, or have significant phone wait times. New community resources might pop up as people try their best to respond to community needs.

Information and referral services such as 211 Alberta are essential in reducing the strain on emergency services, government departments and support service agencies during disaster situations by handling non-emergency calls.

211 is an essential service that helps Albertans find the right resource or service for whatever issue they need help with, at the right time.

How 211 Alberta can help you during the COVID-19 pandemic

As a government or social services agency

  • 211 acts as a communication hub. One phone call, text conversation or online chat is all that is needed to get people to the right place, limiting the number of instances of misinformation and misdirection for those seeking support. 211 also prevents a large number of confusing help lines from being developed.
  • 211 hosts a comprehensive database of resources and services. The need for this information during a disaster when available resources can change on a daily, or even hourly basis. New resources surface while others may become unavailable. 211 Information and Referral Specialist can also use this data to identify unmet needs and monitor the allocation of available resources. For the most up-to-date information 211 has, here’s 211’s COVID-19 Resource List.
  • 211 can expand the capacity of first responders by diverting calls from emergency responders during a disaster.
  • 211’s data has the potential to play a key role in identifying trends of previous disaster response to help in shaping the response of future disasters. To subscribe to 211’s Weekly Covid-19 Report, click here.
    211 can help build up sector capacity and build connections by linking community organizations together prior to disaster striking.

As someone who needs help:

  • 211’s infrastructure and network allows for the system to have extended capacity and reach during a disaster. Since the comprehensive database is online, it can be accessed from many regions, and makes resources accessible beyond the communities from which they originate.
  • 211 Information and Referral Specialists can provide support to callers post-disaster, connect them with services and meet new needs that may have surfaced because of the disaster.
  • 211 Information and Referral Specialists are highly skilled in crisis intervention.
  • To reach 211, dial 2-1-1, text INFO to 211 or visit www.ab.211.ca and click “live chat.”

As someone who wants to help:

One of the largest gaps that arises during a disaster is coordinating the influx of donation and volunteer offers of support that come in. In many cases, agencies do not have the capacity to respond, and helpers can feel discouraged when their offers are not taken up. 211 can coordinate these offers of help and support by directing people to available opportunities to be of service. In partnership with VolunteerConnector, 211 can refer people to available volunteer opportunities and coach them on how to use the VolunteerConnector website at https://www.volunteerconnector.org/.

To help keep 211 up-to-date, visit the 211 Alberta website to check information about your organization’s
programs and services. If you have any updates, email database@ab.211.ca

211 is here to help individuals looking for support and frontline staff looking for information about changing
resources during a pandemic. It is a part of our community of supports that can help direct you to the right
place.

Learn more: https://www.ab.211.ca/

2021-09-22T17:05:56+00:00Blog, Featured Content|

About the Action Plan in 6 Images

About the Action Plan in 6 Images

1. Easier Access to Services for Individuals and Families Struggling with Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Addiction

The purpose of the Community Mental Health Action Plan is to ensure that everyone involved in mental health and addiction in Alberta has the opportunity to maximize collective resources, leverage opportunities to respond to existing gaps, foster innovative approaches and identify a continuum of integrated supports and services. This will translate into easier access to services for individuals and families struggling with poor mental health, mental illness, and addiction.

2. A Focus on Prevention and Promotion

70% of adult Canadians living with a mental health problem or illness say their symptoms started in childhood.

Once mental illness is recognized, help makes a difference for 80% of the people who are affected

The Community Mental Health Action Plan works within this reality. We know there is much we can do at the community level to work together effectively and provide enhanced services for individuals and their families, focusing on:

  • The promotion of positive mental health
  • Prevention of mental illness through early identification and intervention

3. Strengthening the Capacity of Professionals and Non-traditional Supports

The Community Mental Health Action Plan builds the capacity of organizations and non-traditional allies to make practice shifts that can better support positive mental health of others. 

This capacity building work has brought together diverse government, community, and business stakeholders across sectors. As a result, organizations from different sectors can better integrate their work with each other.

An example of this is the Mental Health Training Framework. It is a guide that helps professionals identify training and resources to support the development of knowledge, behavioural, and activating competencies. The Training Framework leverages existing provincial investments made in training and professional development. 

4. Honouring and Learning from Lived / Living Experience

We regularly engage with individuals and families who have previous, current, or ongoing experience with the mental health system to ensure they are partners in creating practice shifts that will ultimately benefit them. We have done this through large group community meetings, focus groups, one-on-one consultations and outreach, and invitations to our Living Library Task Group. 

Their expertise and perspectives are highlighted in the Living Library, Shared Wisdom stories, and Navigation Findings

5. Supporting Albertans through COVID-19

The Community Mental Health Action Plan is collaborating with provincial organizations to develop a plan to ensure frontline supports are informed about, and have access to, psychosocial supports. 

Mental health is an issue that concerns all of us and it is not a concern specific to COVID-19.  However, during this time, mental health issues can be exacerbated by the stress of not working, conflicting information about how to navigate social distancing, parenting while working from home, and other situations. 

In order to help our community, we are highlighting COVID-19 resources for individuals, staff, and organizations on our home page. Each of the resources has been reviewed by our team to Our goal is not to have a comprehensive list of resources available (that would be overwhelming) but to provide a starting point for support. 

See 211 Alberta and our blog post for information about how 211 can help you during the pandemic. 211 is an essential service and can support government and social service agencies, along with people who need help or want to help. 

6. Many Ways to Use Our Website!

The website has six topic areas that you can find tools and resources under such as these:

  • A Mental Health Training Framework to create a training plan for your organization in the areas of trauma, mental health, suicide, workplace wellness, addictions, and brain development
  • The Need Help for Mental Health Tool, a mental health resource listing that comes in 8 languages. You can use the Edmonton version or customize your own! 
  • Compassion to Action, an innovative training for security guards about supporting vulnerable populations. 
  • Stories about extending mental health and addictions support in non-traditional settings and the Shared Wisdom Resource Guide on how to implement changes for the well-being of your staff and clients.  
  • 211 Alberta which is a 24/7 service available across the province, by phone, text, chat which conducts needs and risk assessments before connecting inquirers with the appropriate support. 
  • And more! 

Sign up to our newsletter to get updates on new content added to the website.  

2021-09-22T17:14:11+00:00Blog, Featured Content, Mental Health|
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