Having my own mental health diagnosis and experiencing the mental health system, I had an interest in helping others and advocating for different types of support within the system. It was the opportunity to work on the Skills for Safer Living team that drew me to CMHA and the notoriety that CMHA has for mental health. If you want to work in mental health, in my opinion this is where you want to be. Read about Scott Grant, Coordinator Skills for Safer Living.
1. What is involved in your role?
As a Skills for Safer Living Coordinator, I am part of a team that runs psychoeducational/therapy groups for individuals who have attempted suicide one or more times. The group is primarily a post-intervention group, however, we are mindful that we facilitate the skills to reduce the incidence of future attempts- so I see Skills for Safer Living as a prevention, intervention and post-intervention group. We run groups for adults (18+), we have recently started running groups for youth between the ages of (16-18), and younger teens in collaboration with Lutherwood for 14-16 year olds. Further, we have also run groups on a local university campus.
We work closely as a team, each group is run with two co-facilitators. We do weekly OTN meetings with Yvonne Bergmans who created the Skills program out of St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto. We aim to get 12 people into each group. We approach the group through two lenses: one lens is through the use of our trained experiences (Social Work and/or Counselling), the other lens is our lived-experience. We carefully integrate both lenses to offer a rich and comprehensive learning environment for group participants.
We work through four modules during the group:
- Creating Safety – How can you keep yourself as safe as possible? Once you have the foundation of safety
- Emotional literacy – when panic and fear come up, how can you make a safer choice then suicide?
- Problem Solving – what are some models you can work through?
- Managing Relationships – setting boundaries, keeping yourself safe
The intention of the group is reducing occurrence and incidences of suicide behaviors.
2. What brought you to CMHA WW?
I did not know what peer work was when I started. However, thought using lived-experience was a great way to connect with people. Further, It was the opportunity to work specifically in suicide. During my Master’s placement, I worked with someone who was experiencing suicide ideation. The experience really scared me- I did not know how to respond and did not want to make a mistake. I challenged myself to learn more about suicide and to respond to suicide as a professional. It was the opportunity to work on the Skills for Safer Living team that drew me to CMHA and the notoriety that CMHA has for mental health. If you want to work in mental health, in my opinion this is where you want to be.
3. Have you always worked in mental health?
Originally I went to school to be a Child and Youth Worker and then went on to do Social Work after that. My first few jobs were working with youth in homeless and drop-in centers; I played a lot of “therapeutic PlayStation and road hockey”. Having my own mental health diagnosis and experiencing the mental health system, I had an interest in helping others and advocating for different types of support within the system. I decided that I had something to offer mental health services and that the lived-experience of being a “client” coupled with my training would be something I can offer others.
4. How do you support those in the Skills for Safer Living Program in their recovery journey?
There is a lot of compassion and understanding. Being in a room with other people who have attempted suicide there is a feeling that one is not alone. I think our communities have begun to embrace mental health, however, participants note the stigma that surrounds suicide. Participants often comment on how comforting it is to sit with other individuals who share a similar story. In using my lived-experience, I can shed a more practical light on how to cope and use the skills we are facilitating. I think that when one is able to share their recovery with others, we communicate hope.
5. What are the benefits of Peer Support in Mental Health?
As a trained Social Worker, I walk a line between my educational training and my lived-experience training. I have come to a place where I understand that both approaches are offering help from different angles. When I use my lived-experience in group, I am sharing in a very intentional and deliberate way. I am mindful that I am sharing my story for the benefit of another person. I am aware that I have to be very conscious and deliberate in how my lived-experience will connect with another person. My training as a Social Worker has really allowed me to share my lived-experience in a way that demonstrates what mental health recovery can look like. If your story can help another person identify coping, and aids in their recovery- it gives my own mental health recovery meaning and purpose.
6. What do you enjoy about working at CMHA WW?
Working in suicide and working with a mental health diagnosis can be challenging at times. One of the most important pieces that I have enjoyed about working at CMHA WW is the amount of compassion and support I have received from managers, team leads and my colleagues. I think the support has extended my career. Further, there is a lot of mobility and opportunity within the agency. I have had the opportunity to work in other departments- I just finished working in Cambridge as a member of the Counselling and Treatment team.
7. What are you particularly proud of during your time at CMHA WW?
I was a keynote speaker at a YouthTALK event in Fergus, I spoke about my experience of being the client and then my experience as being the therapist. Being able to share the trials and tribulations of my mental health recovery with a young group was a really cool opportunity. I don’t remember ever being taught about mental health in high school, so it was awesome that younger kids had an opportunity to learn about mental health.
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