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Faces of CMHA: Bethany Deml – Skills for Safer Living Coordinator

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I think what brought me to the Skills for Safer Living team was seeing the huge need in our community for spaces to speak about suicide in a way that validates people’s pain, while inviting individuals to connect with life/living. That’s one of the main features of the Skills for Safer Living program and I was excited to be a part of that process. Suicide is something that has impacted both my professional and personal life. So, the chance to be on a team that was actively creating space for community members to safely talk about their relationship to suicide was an opportunity I felt very blessed to be a part of.

1. What is involved in your role?

The main focus of our role on the Skills team is to facilitate groups. We run psycho-educational/psycho-social groups for individuals who have made at least one attempt of suicide. So, much of the planning goes into how we want to approach each group session. We also connect with potential participants to see if they would like to be in group, and complete assessments prior to the group experience. We also do quite a bit of “behind the scenes” prep work in Caseworks to make sure the groups are ready to go for the next 20 weeks. I think a slightly unique component of our role within the Skills team is that we bring both our clinical experience, as well as our lived experience of mental health concerns into the room.

2. Why did you become involved with Skills for Safer Living? 

I think what brought me to the Skills for Safer Living team was seeing the huge need in our community for spaces to speak about suicide in a way that validates people’s pain, while inviting individuals to connect with life/living. That’s one of the main features of the Skills for Safer Living program and I was excited to be a part of that process. Suicide is something that has impacted both my professional and personal life. So, the chance to be on a team that was actively creating space for community members to safely talk about their relationship to suicide was an opportunity I felt very blessed to be a part of.

3. What brought you to CMHA?

I’ve always been interested in mental health and knew that I wanted to work in adult mental health when I graduated. My first experience with CMHA was as a MSW student. I was on the Mental Health Awareness Week committee in Brantford, and one of the agencies at the table was CMHA Brant. I remember being really impressed with the individual’s commitment to community and their openness to the perspectives of individuals with lived experience. I was drawn to this anti-oppressive practice perspective, as well as the commitment to community. So, when an opportunity on the Self Help team at CMHA WW became available, I knew that I wanted to apply for it—and luckily I got it!

4. Have you always worked in mental health?

The majority of my work has been in mental health but I have worked in other capacities. I’ve worked in emergency shelters for youth and health promotion. I’ve worked as a Camp Coordinator for Family and Children’s Services. During most of my university career, I was part of the Learning Services team at Wilfrid Laurier. I also completed different research assistantships during my MSW degree. I’ve also worked in children’s mental health which I found different from working with youth or adults. But yes, the majority of my work has been in mental health and mental health is definitely my passion.

5. How do you support the people in the Skills program?

In the program, we try to see suicide as a human response to deep psychological and emotional pain. We let individuals know that we don’t view them as someone that needs to be “cured” or “fixed.” We concentrate on finding safer options to cope with this deep pain, as well as helping participants find language to express this pain in a different way. I think that 3 main skills that help us move towards these goals are:

Can we find a safer option? – When we have a very strong relationship to death, it can be a big jump to start appreciating life and completely changing our coping strategies. So, we validate the coping strategies that individuals already use and talk about moving to even safer options. We consider suicide the most unsafe option, and so, any movement on the Safety Continuum to a safer option is validated and encouraged. And, of course, we’re promoting the safest options whenever possible.

Taking moments of control – I think when suicide becomes such a big part of our reality, we haven’t felt like we’ve had control in many areas of our lives. So, suicide becomes one of those areas where we have control. In the program, we really focus on ways that we can expand those moments of control.

Can we relate to our emotional selves in a different way? – How are our emotions related to our sense of safety? Do we recognize that we have emotions, and if so, how do we relate to them? Are we judging them and saying we shouldn’t feel them? Can we relate to our emotional selves in a kinder or less judgmental way?

6. What should people know about suicide?

Don’t be afraid to talk to people about suicide. There is a stigma around mental health and it can be compounded if someone has also made a suicide attempt. I think that it’s important that we learn how to talk about suicide, while remembering the resiliency and strength of individuals.

7. What are you proud of during your time at CMHA?

I love working with people. I always feel very blessed when I am able to connect with people and share with them. I think being able to play a role in someone’s life, as they are exploring the possibility to connect with life again, is a huge privilege. I feel proud and honored to have the chance to do that in my work every day.

If you are in crisis or wish to discuss whether CMHA has the right service for you, call Here 24/7: 1-844-437-3247 (HERE 247).

Follow the ‘Faces of CMHA’ series for a glimpse into the lives of the people who spend each day at the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington working to inspire and support people to achieve the quality of life they desire. Join our team, click here to view current employment opportunities at CMHA WW.

 

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