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What happens at the CHMA?


Marion O’Connor and I (Erin Devlin) are in our third year of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing collaborative program in Fort Frances.

We also currently are in our mental health placement at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Fort Frances.

This has been a great experience for us already. Upon entering this placement, we were unaware of the presence of the CMHA and the services it provides.

But in just a few short weeks, we have learned about many of the programs the CMHA has to offer for members of the community who have a mental illness, and for their friends and family.

Upon entering this mental health placement, we were unaware of the large population of people with mental illness in our community, as well as the various needs and struggles they encounter every day.

The Step Centre, which is located on the ground floor of the CMHA building on Second Street East, is a wonderful place for people with mental illness. It provides a safe place for people to gather and relax, socialize, eat an affordable meal, and escape from the stresses of everyday life.

Many of the people who attend the Step Centre are unable to work due to their illness. They are able to come to gain education, life skills, and support.

The people who attend the Step Centre are wonderful, fun, caring people, and we are very grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to meet them and learn from them.

There are several services available at the CMHA to people who do not attend the Step Centre. We have had the privilege of working with three of the services so far.

The case support workers at the CMHA provide support and advice to people with mental illness, and their families and friends, concerning financial issues, housing issues, social skills, and many other aspects of everyday life.

The case workers also work within the community in order help those who are in need of support. This is a priceless program for the people of the community who struggle with mental illness.

The educational program of the CMHA is one which provides education about mental illness to people of the community. Education is provided to workplaces, schools, and other facilities regarding mental illness and the need to reduce the negative stigmas associated with it.

Education about mental illness is very important because there’s still a negative stigma attached to it in our society and people need to learn that this attitude in unjustified and harmful.

We had the opportunity to work with a project called “Photo Voice,” in which the consumers who attend the Step Centre use pictures and narratives to describe the difficulties they face every day.

The recently-completed program focused on financial issues.

“People should know that we don’t experience the expectation of having regular meals. They take for granted that they will always have food and nourishment—or if they don’t feel like cooking, they can go out to eat or order in.

“We can’t do that because by the middle of the month, we are lucky if we have even $1.”

This was taken from a Photo Voice written by one of the consumers.

The District Mental Health Services for Older Adults Program (DMHSOAP) provides services to older adults living with mental illness in the community.

One role of this program that we observed is to provide respite care to caregivers of mental illness clients. This is a wonderful service to those who are struggling with caregiver strain.

Everyone at the centre has been wonderful to us and taught us a lot. We are very appreciative of everyone’s help and support throughout this experience.

We hope to pass on our knowledge to others in order to increase the awareness of the serious struggle faced by people with mental illness.

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