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5 ways to make High River an Emotional Safe Spot – part 4 of 4

Crowded Cafe

After two years working behind the scenes on this big idea it has been an incredibly rewarding month to introduce it to the community.  First, the response to the Community Café in August was uplifting. As the RSVP’s rolled in and then the clouds – we were honestly afraid that there would be a lack of personal space in the Culture Centre.  Could we talk about an Emotional Safe Spot while we were packed in like sardines?  Gratefully the crowd came, and the clouds went, and we were able to fill the backyard with smiling faces eating orange colored food.  There were so many new faces, drawn to the idea of safe spots and our café regulars making it a warm and welcoming space.

Citizens Who Care

The next week I was contacted by an interested High Riverite who had some real-world experience with the mental health system, he had questions and valuable insight. After a couple hour coffee we came away more committed to doing our part to ‘be the change’. One of the things that he said that has stayed with me was “just walking around seeing these orange dots make me feel like me and my family will be better supported.”


We even had the chance to talk about it on CBC radio!!

Bottom line (well, it’s in the middle) – People in High River care about their neighbors, friends and family’s emotional safety as much as the social profits in town do (this was their idea). So, we’ve covered the intention of the program, we’ve talked about the training and we’ve talked about how to ask for help, the final step is what can WE ALL do to up the emotional safety in High River?

Envision a large orange dot over the whole town.

Here are 5 things we can do to improve the emotional safety in High River:

  1. INTENTION: just decide. Decide that this is an emotional safe spot, a place where people can be who they are, feel what they are feeling, a place where people can get care and support when they are struggling.
  2. TRADE JUDGEMENT FOR CURIOSITY: Instead “wow, what a jerk!” “what a weirdo” or “wow, bad mom – I wouldn’t do that” ask “what is going on there?” “are they okay” “something is off here, I wonder what it is?” None of us is at our best under stress.  Fight, flight or freeze explain away a lot of behavior that we call ‘bad’.  Scared is a great replacement, it changes your whole mindset.  How we treat a scared person vs. how we treat a bad person is a big difference.  Diversity actually makes us stronger, letting people be who they are makes the entire town a safe place.
  3. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER: The more connected you are in your community the better EVERY SINGLE DETERMINANT OF HEALTH will be, that’s safety, education, health and wellness. Start with smiling.  Talking to the people you come into contact with.  Get to know your neighbors, we will all benefit.
  4. ACCOUNTABILITY and RELIABILITY: emotional safety happens when we change our culture from ‘watch your back’ to ‘I’ve got your back’. Our speaker at the next café (register here, it’s free), David Irvine, has focused his life’s work on it, here’s what David says.  Video link
  5. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF: You matter. YOU REALLY MATTER.  Self-care, skill building and dealing with your own stuff are the basic building blocks of a community that is emotionally safe. You are the front line of wellness.  Community Builder Ian Hill, who worked with our community,said, “the person closest to the problem is the best to solve the problem”.  You are closest to your problems. Preventative self-care – whatever that looks like for you and getting help when you need it are not selfish acts, but the most helpful thing you can do.  You have influence, what you do matters, and someone is watching you.  Caring about your own emotional wellness inspires others to do the same.

Can you imagine our community if we all took this on? Please? Thank You 🙂