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The Wellness Network at E4C – September Presentation

Updated: Sep 19, 2022

This month's presentation was from the Wellness Network in Edmonton by Peer Navigators Michelle Black and Nadine Chalifoux to talk about peer led mental health supports.

What is the Wellness Network?

The Wellness Network is a collaboration of community based partners working to provide accessible Mental Health and Wellness opportunities across Edmonton .

Nadine Chalifoux - (Mental Health Peer Navigator/Facilitator - E4C Wellness Network).Nadine is a long-time advocate for the rights and protection of marginalized and impoverished people of Edmonton. She joined the Wellness Network in the late summer of 2021. Nadine created a course on her vast lived experience struggling to get supports from the Alberta government run services. The course “Speak for yourself” is geared to help marginalized people learn how to navigate the social-economic system of programs and supports as well as learn how to advocate for themselves to get the better quality of life they deserve. This fall the course has been modified to train those working in the system to be better equipped with the knowledge that the needs of their clients needs to be addressed by seeing life through the client's views. Then to better help navigate their client to the most appropriate, accessible and understandable supports without compromising on the amount of clients they help.

Michelle Black (Mental Health Peer Navigator- E4C Wellness Network ). Author “Do what you love. Love what you do”. Michelle Black has been a Peer Navigator with the Wellness Network at E4C for the past 4 years. She is the facilitator of programs provided through the Network. She also created her own course from a book she wrote based on her own mental health struggles. She currently provides Peer support for those who need help in their recovery process. She is trained in multiple recognized mental health courses. She also leads the Peer created working group consisting of several people in the Peer support of the mental health sector.

The Wellness Network’s strength is the lived experience and the peer support concept. Peer navigators provide one-on-one support for mental health, navigation through the system for folks dealing with mental health recovery journeys and training on how to better achieve their goals to recovery. These courses, programs and supports are all provided free of cost to the public. You do not need to be a client to attend any and all courses provided. Most do require registration as there are limited spots to best help the group. There are always two lived-experience facilitators for every course or program the Wellness Network provides through the Recovery Courses.

The Wellness Network runs programs and courses helping people through their mental health journeys to recovery. They change up the course line each season to accommodate the availability of the more than two dozen courses run through the Wellness Network Recovery College and dozens more provided by several of their partners.

Through the past 3 years of a pandemic the Wellness Network along with all other mental health providers and supporters has seen a large uptick of clients and the need for peer supports. However since all of the programs and courses went to an online format, this also affected the amount of clients who could access support. There was a drop in some of the courses due to this change from in-person to online. The Wellness Network cannot support over 50% of its clientele when they are too poor to access such services. The Mental Health and Wellness Drop in is provided to anyone needing some support whether that is one-on-ones or socialization or learning techniques to help in those high anxiety times. There is no pre-registration.

In collaboration with direct partners such as Alberta Health Services(AHS) who provide Wellness Recovery Action Plan courses, Canadian Mental Health Association(CMHA) through their Prosper Place drop in centre for people who live with mental health diagnosis and/or moderate developmental disabilities provide numerous courses and training opportunities. Some include cooking or baking basics, computer training, or even their own Peer Navigator that collaborates with the Wellness Network to share her strengths on turning negative thoughts to positive ones, craft times and learning meditation or calming exercises.

The Wellness Network also has partners who provide mental health programs independantly but align with the peer model. Organizations such as the Community Linking Program, Momentum Counselling, On-Site Placement, Employ-abilities, Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers and AMSA. Majority of their courses, programs, training is provided free of cost as well. All available courses, programs and training are shared on the seasonal calendar found on the website.

The Wellness Network has created alongside CMHA a peer working group with MAPS(Mapping and Planning Support), Independent Advocates, AHS and other peer groups. These groups meet monthly. Currently they are working with 211- to create a one-stop directory for people to access peer supports and not deal with the stigma of mental health. There is going to be a Suicide Support Group meeting monthly starting in the fall and a Wellness Network Recovery Course for suicide survivors to learn how to overcome the stigma, challenges and recovery journey.All members of the Peer Working Group are compensated for their time and experience.

Peer support is typically treated as a volunteer role in Canada and Alberta specifically. They want that changed as lived-experience in traumas, mental health and other degrading systemic barriers are trained to better work with people in the same situation. This is equal to any university or trades training. Most peer navigators or supporters are also trained in Trauma and mental recovery needs. These positions need to be paid positions. CMHA has increased their number of paid peer support workers. AHS has done similar. Onsite Placement is doing paid peer support. We have recently created a partnership with the Edmonton Public Library and Rundle Health Centre PCN. They can utilize space for in person courses, drop in and collaborate with the EPL Outreach program that has grown at the Stanley Milner Library downtown to include social workers, housing, psychiatrist, and so much more. The Rundle PCN has offered use of their facility to hold the Suicide Attempt Survivors YEG course on recovery so that there is on site supports like psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and other supports.

The Wellness Network is always looking for partners to help improve the mental health of Edmontonians. Collaborations include housing, homelessness, and basic needs being met.

Links to topics discussed:

Planning to hold in person events at downtown library

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