May 26th, 2020

More local programs announced to deal with mental heath

By Mabell, Dave on October 16, 2019.

Helpseekers Travis Turner speaks during a Mental Illness Awareness Week event Tuesday at the Galt Museum announcing the Recovery College programs and Helpseeker initiative. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

Southern Albertans now have two more resources for mental health.

A series of no-charge “Recovery College” programs are now offered to all interested. And a national “Helpseeker” initiative will soon provide residents with up-to-date information linking them to more than 100 local service agencies.

The programs were announced here Tuesday as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week across the nation. While one in five Canadians may suffer a mental health problem or illness sometime in their life, health officials say almost everyone faces mental health challenges at times.

“We are finding an increased number of people in need of support and services here in Lethbridge,” says David Gabert, communications lead with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s southern Alberta region.

“When we wait until people are in crisis, this creates a burden on our system that we believe can, in some cases, be prevented.”

The “college” program is based on a successful project initiated by Canadian Mental Health in Calgary. Lethbridge is now one of five centres selected to run a similar program for three years.

Ranging from two to eight weeks long, the courses will be offered at the association’s downtown office.

They’re “designed to allow the voice of lived experience guide conversations with their peers, to build tools in helping people to navigate their mental health journey,” Gabert explains.

Open to anyone 16 and older, they’ll initially cover topics including “The Art of Friendship,” “Building Better Boundaries,” “Conversations That Matter” and “Shades of Self Disclosure.”

There will also be courses for youth, and one called “Finding Your Balance” for family, friends and parents. Later, Gabert indicated, there will also be sessions in outlying communities.

Meanwhile “Helpseeker” is expected to go online next week, thanks to co-operation from Volunteer Lethbridge and City officials. Program spokesperson Travis Turner said the real-time system is operating in more than 100 communities across Canada.

In pulling together a Lethbridge site, he said, 105 agencies are participating. So far this year, he added, they have recorded more than 4,600 visits to their websites.

At the same time, Turner reported, they have offered more than 1,000 program events at more than 350 locations across the region.

While the Helpseeker site will allow all to keep their information current, he said it will also allow social service agencies to track numbers, and see where the greatest needs are.

As an example, he said, an analysis of queries received in September showed the “top five” in Lethbridge included advocacy, homelessness, “free,” mental health and “low income.”

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