CMHA to run new peer support program for families

One-year pilot program expected to start in August

Canadian Mental Health Association will soon be running a new peer support program for parents and siblings with family members involved in the mental health system.

The one-year pilot program, funded by Alberta Human Services, will be launched likely in August by CMHA regions across Alberta including the Central Region office in Red Deer.

Trish McAllister-Hall, executive director of CMHA Central Region, said the support program will give people a place where they can go and talk to others in similar circumstances, learn from one another, find out how to navigate the system and what is available.

She said it’s a program people have been requesting. CMHA in Red Deer did have a similar program some years ago but it was eliminated after changes to funding.

“I was just speaking with somebody the other day who felt very alone dealing with their child’s mental health and addiction issues. Not knowing how to get help, where to get help, it can be a very isolating thing to happen within a family,” said McAllister-Hall during CMHA Mental Health Week and its #GETLOUD campaign.

She said that woman thought it would be nice to talk to someone who really understands what she’s going through and can offer suggestions that can actually help.

The free program could accommodate between 20 and 30 people and will be led by a staff co-ordinator and a peer mentor.

She said part of the support program is about breaking down the stigma of mental health and letting folks know that a lot of the things they’re going through are normal and common.

It also can play a role in the recovery process, McAllister-Hall said.

“As people go through recovery and find ways of coping, it can be really helpful in their own recovery to share that with other people and help them along the way, who then can help others. The whole notion of developing a peer support network is that they can gain strength from one another. That’s how we build a healthier community.”

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