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Emotional Safe Spot High River – Launch 2019 – Part 1 of a 4

The flood of water in June 2013 was followed by a couple of other floods.  The flood of volunteers and helpers, the flood of recovery specialists, the flood of researchers.  Each one left a mark, some visible some concealed. One of the things that was fortified during these floods was a connection between the professional helpers in town. This large group (now called the Social Impact Partnership) met regularly.  They talked about the struggles they saw and knowing that they would be here long after the other helpers left, they committed to working together to fill gaps.

Mental health out in the open.

I’m going to go on a little sideline here. We are in a new time where mental health is coming out of the shadows.  Like cancer before it – spoken only in whispers behind your hand – the universal struggle with our emotional and social health is finally getting some airspace. Campaigns like Bell “Lets Talk” and our own “How’s Your 5?” encourage conversation, openness, courage.

Asking for help can be hard!

Here’s the thing we know.  Asking for help can be hard! Talking to family and friends is great, but if that is part of what you are struggling with, or not wanting them to feel bad, or not wanting them to ‘save’ you, can get in the way.  Accessing professional help is a great idea, but ease can be an issue.  First you need to overcome your own inner stoppers “I’m okay, it’ll pass”, “I tried before and it didn’t help”, “what if they put me in the hospital” are just a few.  Next you need to find it (see resources at the bottom of this article), when you are struggling mentally, emotionally or socially it can be really hard to have the gumption to act on these things – even finding a number can feel overwhelming. Once you find the place to go, or get the number it can be really scary to make that step. It’s easy to put off and when you make the call and it’s not office hours, or it’s busy or you have to do some sort of intake questionnaire it can feel like you just can’t take it.

So, you get passed those parts and you get an appointment, or you are put on a wait list.  The campaigns are working – people are seeking help!!!  Our Foothills Counselling Centre is busier than we had imagined (that’s a good thing).  What I’m saying here is that accessing services, and gratefully we have options, is not easy at the best of times, and really not easy when you are not in your most calm, confident and functional state of mind.

See the need, now what do we do?

The Social Impact Partnership saw this, even experienced it themselves.  Around the table discussion arose about how we could make this easier, sometimes you need a little bit of help.  Sometimes you need something right when a moment of courage shows itself.  Sometimes you need someone to help you figure out where to even start.  What came out of this was the idea of Emotional Safe Spots. Similar to the old “Block Parent” program where children could access a safe home if they needed to, they saw a way to identify spaces in the community that you could go to for help.  We know that good helping is a skill, lots of us are naturally good at it, but there are ways to prepare yourself so that both you and the people you are helping are well equipped. The idea of creating a baseline of training for agency staff so that they were prepared became a part of the 2017 Community Capacity Project.

Fast forward to this week. This week we will launch the Emotional Safe Spot Project. A made in High River, rural solution to the number of people struggling in this stress filled world.  It is one more rung on the ladder of wellness – with the hope of making the climb a little less daunting.

To get here we have narrowed down from dozens of trainings to 5 core sessions that make up the Emotional Safe Spot Certification. Organizations with 2 trained staff will get an orange dot to put in their window to identify themselves as an Emotional Safe Spot.  The 5 core trainings, which will be covered in part 2 of this series, are:

  • Mental Health Awareness and Support
  • Working in a Social Services
  • De-escalating Potentially Violent Situations
  • Wellness Strategies for the Wellness Worker
  • Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention

Kind helpers not counsellors

To be clear, we are not creating counsellors, we are arming people to be a first contact helper and a warm place to help you figure out your next step.

We have partnered with a training organization, the Crisis Training and Research Institute (CTRI) and have now trained our own trainers!  We will offer training to organizations in fall and winter and hope to get a citizen option off the ground in 2020.

Now we need YOU

As this is a pilot project, we will need your help now. From our meetings this seemed like a great idea, how it actually works in practice is the next step.  We are asking the community for an openness, for courage and for compassion as we learn and refine this together.

Our Town Council in their strategic plan states: We dare to be different: Boldly challenge the status quo and foster continuous learning.

Emotional Safe Spot is Ours.  Our community strives to a caring community, a connected community, a healthy community.  More information is coming, please join us for the official launch party on Wednesday August 14, 5-7 pm at the Culture Centre at our regular Community Café.

A huge thank you to our community partners and the CTRI for partnering with us on this certification program.  A huge thank you to the Community Capacity Project team – Kalie Mosig (did the lions share of this work), Jody Seeley, Fawna Bews and our backbone support, Shelley Koot and Debbie-Layne MacLeod.

Social Impact Partnership (current list)

The 101 Centre (Foothills Fetal Alcohol Society)

Inclusion Foothills (formerly SNAPS)

Literacy for Life Foundation

Wildrose Community Connections

Town of High River Family and Community Support Services

Alberta Health Services Primary Care Network

Alberta Health Services Rural Addictions and Mental Health

High River Library

MCG (formerly known as McBride Career Group)

Rowan House Emergency Shelter

The Salvation Army

Boys and Girls Club

Narrow Road Home

Bedrock Behavior Services

Foothills School Division

Christ the Redeemer School Division

Our High River

It is a testament to what we can do when we work together.

Local Mental Health Resources

High River and MD Resource Centre 403-652-8620

Emergency Services 911

Distress Centre 24-hour Hotline 403-266-1605

Suicide Crisis Hotline 1-800-784-2433

Health Link 811

Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-387-5437

Kids Help hone (24 hours) 1-800-668-6868

AHS: Rural Addictions and Mental Health Intake 1-877-652-4700

Rowan House: Women’s Emergency Shelter (24 hours) 403-652-3311

AA 24-hour Hotline 403-777-1212

The Salvation Army 403-652-2195

Parent Link Centre 403-652-8633