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Faces of CMHA WW: Mikalya G., Coordinator with Skills for Safer Living Program


1. What is involved in your role?

I am a Coordinator with the Skills for Safer Living Program. My role involves supporting individuals who have experienced one or more suicide attempts and/or suicidal ideation. I do this by facilitating our 4-week introductory sessions, the 20-week psychoeducational/psychosocial group, and occasionally our parent/youth program. Each collection of people is unique, and I learn so much each time.

I also provide one-to-one support and crisis interventions when required. For myself, the ability to build relationships as a peer and expand on support using clinical training is one of the most rewarding aspects.   

2. Why did you become involved in the mental health field?

I have been interested in working in mental health and addiction from a young age. Having seen friends struggle with self-harm and suicide attempts throughout high school and having my own mental health struggles, I knew I wanted to enter a helping profession.

3. Have you always worked in mental health?

My first full-time job out of postsecondary school was as a Site Facilitator for Cambridge Active Self Help, part of the Self Help Alliance. It was a joy working in a very grass roots environment with amazingly inspirational peers. I stayed through many changes as the Self Help Alliance formally merged, and eventually became Self Help and Peer Support with CMHA WW.

4. How do you support people in your role?

I support people by helping them see they are not alone and working on normalizing and humanizing the hard times and big emotions. Without judgment of past choices or coping strategies a person has been using to keep themselves safer, I help them explore a wide range of skills they can choose from.

Our goal is to help people reduce the duration, intensity, and frequency of their crisis episodes by exploring ways to define what safety means to them, understand more about naming their emotions, develop coping and problem-solving skills, and begin to look at relationships.

5. What are you proud of during your time in your role?

For myself, I am so grateful to have been invited by the creator of Skills for Safer Living, Dr. Yvonne Bergmans to provide training and ongoing support to organizations across Canada, including a pilot project with the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary.

For the people I support, I am so very proud of the hard work and exhaustive effort they put into optimizing their own mental health and being able to support them on their journeys. We can only walk beside and cannot climb their mountains. It makes all the challenges and hard work worth it to watch as people choose to take steps towards living.

If you are in crisis or wish to discuss whether CMHA WW 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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