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MAGAZINE OF UNITED WAY OF THE ALBERTA CAPITAL REGION WINTER/SPRING 2015

How a cop
coped after
trauma p.14

PTSD
This illness is no longer
a four-letter word

Healthy
Workplaces

Mental health is
everybodys business

On the Spot
Drop-in counselling in a
whole new light

How Edmontons
first lady is working to
eliminate poverty

THIS ISSUE
OF WE
IS GENEROUSLY
SPONSORED
BY EPCOR
THIS ISSUE
OFMAGAZINE
WE MAGAZINE
IS GENEROUSLY
SPONSORED
BY

PM#40020055

Plus:

!
u
o
y
n
k
T ha
Its hard to imagine enduring our winter months without
the appropriate clothing. For many people living in
poverty in our community, thats the cold, harsh reality.
Because of your incredible generosity, nearly 9,000
adults and children in the Alberta Capital Region were
able to stay warm this winter. Thank you for donating
to Coats for Kids & Families, and for ensuring no one
is left out in the cold.

2014 Presenting Partners

WINTER/SPRING 2015
SPOTLIGHT
Mental Health
10 BRAIN MATTERS
The science of mental health is shifting
towards early detection and prevention

14 BEYOND THE TRAUMA


More details about PTSD are coming to light,
thanks to public awareness and treatment

14

DEPARTMENTS

ON THE COVER:
Ron Campbell is facing
PTSD head on
PHOTO: Curtis Comeau

19 SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT

4 MESSAGE FROM
UNITED WAY

An expert panel explores the links between


mental illness and poverty

5 COMMUNITY
CHAMPIONS
Jean Cremer and Larry
Derkach celebrate 25 years of
being a voice for United Way

22 HEALTHY ON THE JOB


How businesses can address the challenges
of mental illness in the workplace

10

FEATURES

6 THIS WAY IN

A look at a handful of
United Ways recent
community initiatives

9 TRUTH BE TOLD

18 SPONSOR PROFILE: EPCOR


Employee volunteers prove first-hand how
giving back can benefit the whole community

26

Uncovering facts about


mental illness

18

Humanitarian, educator, parent: now


Edmontons Sarah Chan adds fighting
poverty to her resum

40 BUSINESS WAY
Next Digital puts the fun
into its fundraising

41 LEADING EDGE
The Urban Aboriginal
Family Resource Centre
brings a collaborative
approach to helping youth

22

26 YOUNG INSPIRATION

30 SCORECARD
30

United Way sets clearly defined targets to


measure the impact of your investment

32 TEAMING UP
Local community organizations have pooled
expertise, forming a three-pronged mental
health plan

42 MILESTONES
The Gateway Association
creates the right conditions
for its clients to succeed

WEMAGAZINE.CA

36 DO DROP IN
36

Five city organizations have partnered to offer


on-the-spot counselling to drop-in clients

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

PHOTO: NANCY CRITCHLEY

O UR WAY

WINTER/SPRING 2015 VOL 4 No. 1


UNITED WAY OF THE ALBERTA CAPITAL REGION
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Nancy Critchley
ASSOCIATE EDITORS: Angela Dorval, Mike Kluttig,
David Odumade
COMMUNICATIONS ASSISTANT: Cindy McDonald
EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Meredith Bongers, Amy Dixon, Jean Dalton, Sheilah Pittman,
Anne Smith
Amy Dixon
Community Investment Specialist
United Way of the Alberta Capital Region

Mental Health
Affects Us All
THERE IS NO HEALTH WITHOUT MENTAL HEALTH.
We still live in a society that is only beginning to accept mental
health as a legitimate concern to our overall health. Stigma is
still a barrier for people living with mental health issues and
illness. Since many adults spend most of their waking hours
at work, the workplace can be a strong contributor to mental
well-being. In this issue of WE, we explore the importance of
positive mental health and how workers, families, employers
and the community at large can work together to support
positive mental health.
By strengthening peoples knowledge and understanding
of mental health, we can decrease stigma and increase our
capacity to support one another to become and remain
mentally well.
At United Way, we know that decreasing barriers to community-based mental health supports for those most vulnerable in
our community is key to creating pathways out of poverty. By
focusing on public education, as well as a wide-range of counselling and mental health programs, we can ensure community
members have access to the crucial supports they need to lead
healthy, happy lives.
Thank you to EPCOR for sponsoring this issue of WE; its
through your support we can continue to share these stories.

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

SPONSORSHIP AND CORPORATE SUPPORT COMMITTEE


Meredith Bongers, Nancy Critchley, Kevin Fitzgerald,
Myrna Khan, Mike Kluttig, Stephane Hache
VENTURE PUBLISHING INC.
PUBLISHER: Ruth Kelly
DIRECTOR OF CUSTOM CONTENT: Mifi Purvis
MANAGING EDITORS: Lyndsie Bourgon, Shelley Williamson
ART DIRECTOR: Charles Burke
ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR: Andrea deBoer
PRODUCTION MANAGER: Betty Feniak Smith
PRODUCTION TECHNICIANS: Brent Felzien, Brandon Hoover
CIRCULATION: Karen Reilly
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Robin Brunet, Amy Dixon,
Martin Dover, Jen Janzen, Robbie Jeffrey, Jacqueline Louie,
Sam Macdonald, Lisa Ostrowski, Samus Smyth
CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ILLUSTRATORS:
Curtis Comeau, Nancy Critchley, Kelly Redinger,
Raymond Reid, Ben Rude, Amy Senecal
ABOUT UNITED WAY
The mission of United Way of the Alberta Capital Region is to
mobilize collective action to create pathways out of poverty.

WE is published for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region


by Venture Publishing Inc., 10259-105 Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 1E3
Tel: 780-990-0839 Fax: 780-425-4921
Toll-free: 1-866-227-4276 circulation@venturepublishing.ca
Printed in Canada by Transcontinental Interweb
WE is printed on Forest Stewardship Council certified paper
Publications Agreement #40020055
ISSN 1925-8690
Contents copyright 2015.
Content may not be reprinted or reproduced
without permission from United Way of the
Alberta Capital Region.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

C OMMUNITY CHAMPIONS

Speakers Corner
United Way relies
on volunteers like
Jean Cremer and
Larry Derkach.
Theyve been
spreading the
word for a quarter
of a century
JEAN CREMER AND LARRY DERKACH

LARRY DERKACH

United Way is not only a funder,

by MARTIN DOVER

JEAN CREMER

used the 211 service or Support Network

are both shining examples of a

but an active, creative partner in

distress line. These programs build resilience

dedicated volunteer. In addition to

bringing people and resources together

against situations that could make anyone

holding down demanding jobs, each is a

effectively and efficiently. I care deeply

vulnerable to poverty.

25-year United Way volunteer, speaking

about this because not only do I happen

in the community on behalf of United

to work for a funded partner, Im also

WE: How did you get your start?

Way to local businesses and other

a donor and I live in this community.

JC: I started with the Strathcona Shelter

organizations. Jean travels all over the

I am convinced that a donation to

Society in the fall of 1989 and began doing

region as a volunteer speaker, says

United Way is the most effective

presentations about my experiences helping

Tasha Mich, who coordinates speakers

charitable gift a person can make

battered women and their children. I hardly

for United Way of the Alberta Capital

I guess I can get that message across

knew what to say, but I knew about United

Region. She and Larry put a human

when I address leaders.

Way and what they did, so it worked out

face to our programs. They volunteer

fine. Over the years my presentations have

not just a couple of times a year, but

WE: What results do you see from

changed, but theyve always been about our

10, even 20 times. Were blown away by

your speaking efforts?

women and children and how much they

their commitment. WE spoke to Larry

LD: Im fortunate that in my job I get

need A Safe Place thats the name of our

and Jean about what motivates them.

to see first-hand what a difference is

organization and how theyve used and

achieved with investment in United

appreciated support from United Way.

WE: Why channel your efforts to

Way the people in the workplaces

speak to corporate leaders about the

where I speak rarely have that chance.

WE: What is the best kind of crowd?

value of engaging them and United

I can deliver the message.

JC: The workplaces I have been to as a

Way as community partners?

United Way-funded programs and

volunteer are truly amazing. From the likes

LD: Ive had a long career working for

services may have touched peoples

of Dow and Suncor, to small independent

United Way-funded partners, first at the

lives in ways that surprise them. They

businesses it never matters if I have a

Bissell Centre, then at Jewish Family

may have used the Edmonton Healing

group of 100 or of 10. If one person learns

Services. Ive seen what remarkable

Centre programs my agency offers

more about A Safe Place and how we

advances can be made when people

at public libraries and community

support families, and about how United

work together. The people at United

locations. They may know children

Way supports our community agencies,

Way knew that, and asked me to speak

whove used a YMCA or Boys & Girls

thats all it takes to make me feel that the

to CEOs and other managers about

Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

presentation was successful.

donorship and corporate leadership.

Maybe they know someone who has

with files from Sam Macdonald

WEMAGAZINE.CA

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

by UNITED WAY STAFF

LEADERS FOR CHANGE


RUTH KELLY, UNITED WAY CAMPAIGN CHAIR,
(right) brought the mayors from 14 cities and towns in
the Alberta Capital Region together last September to
help solve poverty. The participating mayors included

Beaumont, Calmar, Devon, Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan,


Leduc, Leduc County, Redwater, Spruce Grove, St. Albert,
Strathcona County, Thorsby and Warburg, and the deputy
mayor of Stony Plain.

MENTAL ILLNESS UNMASKED


OILERS GOALTENDER BEN SCRIVENS IS

WELCOME, BISSELL

sporting a mask that does more than shield fast-moving


pucks; he is wearing it to showcase four artists living
with schizophrenia. The players masks will later be
auctioned off to raise money and awareness for the
Schizophrenia Society of Alberta. The first instalment
as part of the Bens Netminders program, shown below,
was based on the artwork of Richard Boulet. Read more
about Richards story on page 22.

IN NOVEMBER 2014, UNITED WAY OF THE


Alberta Capital Region welcomed Bissell Centre staff
to their new satellite office in United Ways building on
Stony Plain Road and 152 Street. The provision of this
office space is an in-kind allocation from United Way
to Bissell so that they may offer crucial support and
services, through Homeless to Homes (H2H) and 24/7
Mobile Assistance Program (MAP).
The Stony Plain Road office will house approximately
30 Bissell employees who will address housing issues for
people with multiple barriers, as well as offer numerous
supports for people with complex needs.

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

WARM HEARTS: Crestwood Elementary Grade 1 students were


among participants in last years Coats for Kids & Families
campaign, a United Way campaign that delivers outdoor
clothing to thousands of Edmontonians in need.

SAVED BY THE BELL


MR. BELLS GRADE 1 CLASS AT CRESTWOOD

need. Coats for Kids & Families is a United Way initiative


Elementary has been involved with Coats for Kids & Families for the that began in 1992 due to overwhelming requests for winter
last three years. Each year the class initiates its own coat collection
jackets, many of them from families with children. In 2013,
within the school to encourage peers to become involved in giving
7,830 coats were collected, cleaned, sorted and distributed.
back. This year students collected dozens of coats and other winter
The annual 2014 Coats for Kids & Families Campaign ran
items for people in need in our community. Coats that are collected
from October 1 to December 14, and is expected to distribute
are sent to Page the Cleaner before being distributed to people in
nearly 9,000 coats this winter.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

A RIGHT WAY TO PLAY


LAST FALL, HUNDREDS OF KIDS IN THE ALBERTA CAPITAL REGION
celebrated their Right to Play, as stated in Article 31 of the United Nations Convention
on the Rights of the Child. Students from Westmount School joined City Councillor
Michael Walters, as the City of Edmonton proclaimed November 20 to be National
Child Day in Edmonton.

SUPPORT ON THE LINE


UNITED WAY OF THE
Alberta Capital Region provided
one-time emergency funding of
$48,000 to the Crisis Support Centre,
a program of The Support Network,
to ensure the Distress Line is able to
remain open 24 hours a day till the end
of March 2015. This funding is in step
with United Ways efforts to support
community members struggling with
many problems related to poverty in the
Alberta Capital Region.
The Distress Line provides critical
support for people experiencing crises
such as mental health concerns, suicidal
thoughts or coping with abusive
situations. For community members
in distress or for those who know
someone in distress the Crisis Support
Centres Distress Line will be there at
780-482-4357.

PHOTO: NANCY CRITCHLEY

FINDING A VOICE
ON OCTOBER 2, 2014,
United Way of the Alberta Capital
Region, PLANit Sound and Hot 107
FM launched My United Way Voice,
a music contest to encourage local
singers, rappers and spoken word artists
to lend their voices against poverty.
With 35 entries to choose from, the
selection committee had a very difficult
and lengthy task to choose and finally
agree upon just five finalists. People
were encouraged to vote for their
favourite artist daily. Contest voting
closed on January 19. Learn more
about the winner and the contest at
myunitedwayvoice.ca

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

TRUTH BE TOLD
by MARTIN DOVER

Beneath the Stigma


WE magazine uncovers the truth about mental
illness and those who live with it
MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS CAN
be difficult for people experiencing them
and are complicated by others misconceptions. WE spoke to Ione Challborn,
the executive director of the Canadian
Mental Health Association Edmonton
Region (CMHA-ER), to help clear up some
of the misunderstandings about mental
illnesses and people living with them.
Heres what she had to say.

PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS


CAN LIVE FULL AND PRODUCTIVE
LIVES: In my business, we talk a lot
about recovery. There was a time when
people were diagnosed with mental
illness or a mental health problem and
they may have felt their life as they
knew it was over. It was very hard on
the person, but also very hard on family
members because they had hopes and
dreams for their own future as well as the
people close to them.
With timely intervention, treatment
and support, people are able to start on
the recovery journey. With support, they
can establish new goals so that they are
engaged with community in a way that is
meaningful to them, which could include
full-time work, part-time work, volunteerism, having a family all of those things.

So with those extreme feelings, when


something isnt quite right, its best to
talk with a doctor or a mental health
worker and get the appropriate intervention. It could be medication, it could be
counselling, it could be a combination. We
see what we can do to understand mental
illness, see what we can do to get the
appropriate treatment for it and make
modifications so patients can adjust their
lives and still live out their dreams and be
involved in their community. Its just as
possible with a mental health issue as it is
with a physical health issue.

PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS


ARENT VIOLENT: People with mental
illness are actually more likely to be
victims of violence than perpetrators.
There have been some very well-known
cases of violence committed by mentally
ill people. Those cases reinforce fears
that some people have, when really its
an example of an illness untreated. That
doesnt mean every illness left untreated
is going to result in violence. The social
or economic factors that contribute to
violent or criminal behaviour are the
same for everyone people with mental
illness also fall into that category.

WE TEND TO THINK IN EXTREMES:

PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS


DIDNT CAUSE THEIR SITUATION:

Something is either really good or really


bad, either this or that. But not every
diagnosis is a life-changing diagnosis.

Mental illness is a brain disorder and a


health problem. Something isnt working,
and it is the result of genetic, biological

WEMAGAZINE.CA

and environmental factors. It just happens. There are some social factors such
as ongoing poverty or homelessness
that can contribute to mental and other
types of illness. Those crises and health
indicators can create circumstances where
its very difficult for people to maintain
positive mental health, and that may lead
to depression. People also may selfmedicate and suffer substance abuse.
But other than that, it is a brain issue.

NOBODYS FAULT
Stigma or discrimination attached
to mental illnesses presents a
serious barrier to diagnosis and
treatment and to acceptance in the
community.
Almost half of people who feel
they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never seen a
doctor about it.
The economic cost of mental
illnesses in Canada on the health
care system was estimated to be
at least $7.9 billion in 1998 $4.7
billion in care, and $3.2 billion in
disability and early death.
About 20 per cent of Canadians
will experience a mental illness.
Mental illnesses can be treated
effectively.
Source: cmha.ca

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

10

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

Mental Health

BRAIN
Matters

The science of mental health shifts towards


early detection and prevention

by ROBBIE JEFFREY

Illustration by RAYMOND REID

BE BUCKINGHAM IS QUICK-WITTED
and deftly conversational. He
speaks openly about harrowing
personal experiences, including his first
suicide attempt when he was just 12 years
old. He spends time surfing for mental
health and depression topics on Reddit,
a social networking and news site where
community members organize posts into
discreet areas of interest, and on 7 Cups
of Tea, an online forum where listeners
communicate with people seeking help.
Part of his advocacy around mental health
issues means being honest about himself; if
strangers ask him how he supports himself, he
tells them he receives Assured Income for the
Severely Handicapped (AISH), just as he tells
his kids teachers at school. And though
he doesnt often leave his Edmonton home
and rarely speaks in public, he wants his name
out there.
At age 12, Abe was hospitalized after he
ingested a near-lethal amount of aspirin. But he
wasnt certified, meaning he wouldnt be held
at the hospital against his will. By his early-20s
he was in the hospital again, after a friend saw
he was self-injuring but he wasnt yet ready
to accept psychiatric treatment, he says. There

WEMAGAZINE.CA

was still a stigma in my mind, that psychiatry


is something I should avoid, and that I didnt
really need the medications, says Abe, who is
now 37.
Thus began a decade-long pendulum swing
between depression and improvement, during
which a good year or two would give way to a
relapse, and periods of depression. He lost his
job as a computer programmer after spiralling
through an episode of depression and paranoia.
Estranging himself from his friends and family,
he experienced homelessness, briefly living in
Edmontons river valley. Then things improved.
He got re-married and started a family things
so many of us take for granted.
But this was followed by a breakdown in 2012,
when his family noticed a dramatic shift in his
behaviour and called police. Child Protective
Services intervened, and Abe was removed from
his home. He lost access to his kids for almost a
year. He was diagnosed with major depressive
disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, and
his second marriage collapsed.
In 2012, Abe was admitted to the Royal
Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, and he
prepared for an in-patient stabilization period,
wherein he would eat well, sleep well and get
exercise and proper medication. Thats when I

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11

FIFTEEN TO 20 YEARS AGO, THE COMMON TEACHING ABOUT


an illness like depression, including in medical school, was
about chemical imbalances, says Dr. Glenda MacQueen,
a psychiatrist and researcher at the University of Calgary.
And the idea was, as soon as you normalize the chemicals,
everything sort of went back to normal.
Glendas patients have mood disorders, and shes
interested in why some people face promising outcomes
and others dont. When she began her career, There was
little to nothing known about why you could have the
same illness and some people will have an episode and be
back to 100 per cent in a highly demanding environment,
and other people will struggle to even hold down a job,
she says.
The metaphor used to describe mood disorders at that
time was that they were software problems that there
was nothing wrong with the hardware, or the structure
of the brain; it was just misreading the code. But with
the advent of new neuroimaging techniques and through
research with animals, that binary approach suddenly
seemed too simplistic.
Researchers looked at the effects of stress on the
hippocampus (a part of the brain located under the celebral
cortex), and found evidence that chronic stress could create
physical changes. The research led to the development
of a brain network approach to mood disorders, where
interconnected brain regions could fail to communicate if
one part of the line goes down.
By the early-1990s, Robert Post, who worked with
the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S. for
years, started talking about the kindling model of mood
disorders. The kindling model was originally proposed
in the 1960s by Graham Goddard, who coined the term
after conducting studies on epileptic seizures in animals.
The idea was that scientists could induce a brief seizure
in an animal by administering an electrical shock, even if
there was nothing wrong with the structure of the animals
brain. But if enough electrical shocks were administered,
it would kindle the brain in such a way that the animal
would spontaneously have seizures afterwards.
Robert then applied the connection to his patients:
Early on in their mental illnesses, he noted, their episodes
required significant external stimulus. But after repeated
episodes, there might be no visible, defined trigger. His
work around that time really focused on if there could

12

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

MENTAL NOTE: Abe Buckingham uses online chat forums such as


7 Cups of Tea to help reach out to other like-minded listeners who
have struggled with, or are experiencing, mental illness.

possibly be something changing in the brain with each of these episodes


that leaves you a little more vulnerable, so that eventually youve got a brain
thats really vulnerable to depression, Glenda says. People began to realize
that there might be some structures in the brain where the hardware is
actually changed.
This connection informed Glendas research, which looked at how
episodes of an illness might leave a residual marker a kind of signature
or fingerprint on the brain, and with it, clues as to what method of
treatment would be most effective. The idea was that if you have several
episodes of an illness or are hospitalized a few times, maybe each one of
the episodes doesnt in itself leave much of an imprint, but if you amass a
certain critical number, you start to see some of these long-term effects,
she says.
Glenda describes the shift away from the chemical imbalance model of
mental illness as one of the major paradigm shifts in psychiatry. I think
weve moved towards a much more detailed focus on the areas of the brain
that are involved, whats happening in those areas and what might happen
to make it so they cant communicate effectively with other areas in the
brain, she says. Researchers hope to predict what kind of treatment fits
each patient what she calls precision medicine. Its a trend at work in
other health fields, too, notably cancer treatment, in which researchers and

WEMAGAZINE.CA

PHOTO: SHELLEY WILLIAMSON

realized something was really wrong, and I was going to


have to make some changes or get stuck, he says.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

Mental Health

physicians are moving from treating a particular type,


with or without mental illness; thats just conditioning.
size and stage of tumour, for example, to creating a plan
He notes that when he was younger his parents were
for a particular patient based on known variables and
uncomfortable with psychiatry and medications for their
physical markers.
son, treatment was of the guess-and-test variety and
The implications of precision medicine in mental health
Internet support forums were non-existent.
place the emphasis on early detection and prevention,
This speaks to the compounding effects of social
and this is evident across the spectrum of brain research.
obstacles, a factor completely absent from the chemical
Dr. Signe Bray, assistant professor in the department
imbalance model. Dr. Anisa Khaliq, a child psychiatrist
of radiology at the University of Calgary and head of
in Edmonton, says theres an increased effort underway
the Bray Neuroimaging Lab, is part of a collaborative
to understand how early childhood experiences and
team of researchers studying how the brain can develop
socio-economic status can play a role in mental illness.
abnormally. Her team looks for early predictors of
If children have a genetic load that makes them more
psychosis to better understand the factors that influence
prone to mental illness, and if theyre in a lower sociothe range of outcomes in patients. She agrees the chemical
economic status and the amount of resources a parent
imbalance model of mental
can access is limited,
illness is outdated. I dont
theres a downward
Were
at
the
moment
where
were
think its that simple, she says.
spiral, she says.
ready for the conversation about
Disorders that start early in
Poverty, she says, is an
life can actually alter a lot of
indicator, one that can
mental illness in a way that we
aspects of how the brain is
exacerbate mental illness
werent before.
structured and how
and increase the triggers
Abe Buckingham
it functions.
that turn it into a serious and
Her approach is similar to
chronic condition.
Glendas: she looks at networks among brain regions and
Thats one of the reasons that United Way of the Alberta
how the brain responds to different tasks. Signes research
Capital Region has devised its 12 Desired Results,
also complements other measures of cognition, behaviour
targeting the most critical needs of people experiencing
and life experience. We have to combine basic knowledge
poverty in our community. In its focus area of wellness,
of whats wrong with the brain with an understanding of
programs strive to, among other goals, decrease barriers
how certain kinds of interventions can change the brain,
for those of all ages to community-based mental health
she says.
supports for those, like Abe, who may not know where to
The research isnt giving up any easy answers and, as
turn. Over the last few decades, theres been a general
Glenda says, its not enough to simply identify patterns
desire to provide earlier intervention, says Anisa. Even if
associated with depression you can do that by just
the mechanisms behind mental illness remain obscured,
asking the patient. The detection has to be a precursor to
psychiatrists have a widening range of therapies with which
effective treatment. But the intent is clear: researchers and
to help their patients.
psychiatrists want to mark and treat the signs of mental
Abe attests to the notion that episodes of poor mental
illness when they first appear.
health can compound over the years, how one traumatic
situation can precipitate a chain of events that is difficult
AFTER COMPLETING HIS IN-PATIENT PROGRAM AT THE
to bounce back from. He acknowledges that earlier support
Royal Alex, Abe took part in a six-week intensive
would have helped, but at this point thats like trying to
cognitive behavioural therapy program, a voluntary
turn back the clock.
outpatient program, and balanced himself out with proper
Abe cant pinpoint a certain event from which all other
medication, which he says was the fix for him. And
traumas followed. But the nature of our discussions around
today, he spends his time advocating for mental health
mental health gives him hope, and hes seen profound
and connecting with like-minded people, when hes not
change in his own life. Were at a moment in human
spending time with his two daughters.
history where were ready to have social dialogue, he says.
The idea that repeated episodes can leave a signature
Were ready for the conversation about mental illness in a
makes intuitive sense to Abe, though he says thats true
way that we werent before.

13

STAFF SERGEANT RON CAMPBELL

14

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

Mental Health

Beyond
the
Trauma
More details about PTSD are coming
to light, thanks to public awareness
and treatment options
by LYNDSIE BOURGON

Photography by CURTIS COMEAU

T WAS MORE OF A MOUNTING TENSION THAN A WAVE OF


grief that first sent Staff Sergeant Ron Campbell into
shock. For 24 years, Ron worked in various departments
of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Edmonton.
An expert in crisis negotiating and mediation, Ron was
no stranger to high-stress and often violent situations.
Police officers are notorious avoiders, we internalize everything,
Ron says. Throughout his career he had been present for shocking and
violent incidents, many of which he says didnt faze him. Some incidents
that we deal with in our careers are like silk, but some are like Velcro and
they stick, he says. Rons Velcro moment came in February 2004, when
his team responded to a call about an armed-and-barricaded man in
Spruce Grove. Acting as negotiator, Ron watched as one of his colleagues
was shot and killed. It hit hard, says Ron, who had worked with that
colleague for 19 years. My behaviour started to change, and not in a
positive way.
The incident triggered post-traumatic stress disorder in Ron.
PTSD is a mental illness that allows traumatic events of the past to
leave a mark on the present day. Many people who have witnessed or
experienced trauma are at risk of mental illness, and the symptoms are
all-encompassing: sleep disturbances, concentration problems, feelings
of emotional numbness, depression and a lack of trust in others all

WEMAGAZINE.CA

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

15

FROM THE BRINK: RCMP Staff Sergeant Ron Campbell credits


his family and friends for an intervention that led him to seek
help for his PTSD, which he acquired on the job.

characterize PTSD. Sufferers can experience flashbacks


were not broken toys, he says. We need to stop stigmatizing. He also
and nightmares, and often try to avoid all reminders of
speaks to groups about how PTSD affects people in all walks of life. Stories
the trauma they have experienced. Once, when Ron was
like Rons influence how United Way is tackling the repercussions of PTSD
reading a newspaper story about a truck crash west of
in the community.
Edmonton, he flashed back
to a similar accident that he
LULE BEGASHAW, A PSYCHOTHERAPIST AND
I
was
doing
everything
I
could
to
had responded to 22 years
team leader at the Edmonton Mennonite
sabotage my marriage, so that if I was
earlier. He burst into tears
Centre for Newcomers, helps new
at the kitchen table.
Canadians find their way in an unfamiliar
gone she wouldnt care.
Ron was finally pushed
city and country, often after traumatic
RCMP Staff Sergeant Ron Campbell
to seek help for his PTSD
events have forced them to leave their homes
when a colleague looked
elsewhere. The centre provides resources
me in the eye and asked, How are you really doing? The
that connect new Canadians with help, and its work can be complicated by
air went out of me. I was so busted. Three weeks later, he
previously-undiagnosed PTSD among the client base.
called a therapist, who he saw until the doctor retired. But
While Lule and her team have become familiar with providing
Rons journey had only just begun between 2004 and
counselling services for survivors of torture and trauma that seek help
2009 he was on an emotional roller coaster, experiencing
from the centre, those in the public who are aware of PTSD see it as a
suicidal thoughts. I was doing everything I could to
condition suffered by soldiers or police, like Ron. We dont often think of
sabotage my marriage, so that if I was gone she wouldnt
immigrants as suffering from it. But refugees and immigrants have fled
care, Ron says. Finally, his family staged an intervention
from backgrounds that include war, impoverishment and being forced to
and he called another therapist, this time one who
flee their homes situations that can trigger PTSD.
specialized in trauma treatment. He put Humpty Dumpty
Lule says there hasnt been an increase in the number of people being
back together again, and probably saved my life.
treated for PTSD at the centre, just more of a general awareness in the
Now, Ron is committed to talking about PTSD and
publics knowledge of it. The problem has always been there, she says.
mental illness any chance he gets. We can be productive,
But it hasnt been recognized, especially with funders. Because more

16

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

YOU CAN FIND PTSD AMONG OTHER GROUPS OF PEOPLE YOU


wouldnt expect, populations untouched by war or hard
police work. Meredith Evans sees it every day in her work
as a registered clinical psychologist in Edmonton. She
treats PTSD among her trauma patients primarily with
cognitive approaches. Meredith got her start treating
trauma as a volunteer at the sexual assault centre at the
University of Alberta during her undergraduate degree,
and was interested in helping victims through their recovery.
I could see such a change after treatment, she says.
You can witness such resilience; its amazing to focus on
that aspect.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

She says the treatment of PTSD currently focuses on three


evidence-based approaches. The most common is exposurebased, which means patients are encouraged to expose
themselves to the trauma and think about the reminders. This
might mean something like watching a war movie, or working
towards stepping into a tank or piece of machinery again.
Its hard, she says. I know it works, but its not easy. Its the
Buckleys treatment it tastes awful, but it works.
Though he was not a patient of Meredith, Rons treatment
was likewise arduous. It slowly brought him back from the
brink, and has led him to speak at international conferences
about trauma. He still sees a therapist a few times per year,
but now he considers himself a survivor. He knows hes lucky
to have found the support he needed, and he wants to see that
help broadly available among more marginalized populations.
The only difference between a broken leg and a broken spirit
is that one has a cast, he says. This is a community problem,
not an occupationally-specific one.

Mental Health

people talk openly about PTSD now, supporters of the centre


are more aware of how their money can help. Recently, the
centre was able to hire more counselling staff. I think the
funders and government are really opening up to provide
money for this type of thing, she says. The awareness has
increased, not the issue.
As was the case with Ron, some Mennonite Centre clients
arent aware that they could be suffering from PTSD. The
referrals often dont come directly for PTSD counselling,
but usually through a concern about parenting or school
performance. So it shows in different ways, says Lule. We
were targeting the survivors of torture, the victims. But we
started to see that families were also affected indirectly.
The centre receives many referrals from local hospitals,
clinics and government agencies. It is one of four centres in
Canada that provides specialized PTSD services. One of its
employees is the Canadian president for the International
Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, which has been
campaigning for PTSD treatment as a universal human right.
They are calling out for governments that sponsor refugees
to open up and make PTSD treatment a human rights
service, rather than something extra, or a luxury, says Lule.
Often, mental health services arent covered by government
insurance plans, and sufferers cant afford to seek out
treatment through a psychologist, leaving places like the
Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers stretched thin.
Poverty is often tied to a newcomers experience, and can
be inextricably linked to challenges in mental health services.
Poverty takes away your power, your ability to take control
of your life, and its a feeling of helplessness, says Lule.
Especially when new immigrants come to Canada and they
have to start from the beginning this can trigger PTSD
symptoms. And some people find themselves homeless. Lack
of stability affects their ability to recover. In order to build
people up, it requires a lot.

HOW TO HELP
IF YOU THINK YOU OR A LOVED ONE MAY BE SUFFERING FROM
PTSD, CALL 211 TO LEARN ABOUT RESOURCES AVAILABLE.
TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR: A family physician can fill out a PTSD
assessment form and can point you towards finding the right
mental health professional for your needs.

PSYCHOLOGY TODAY: You can find information for local psychiatrists by visiting the Psychology Today website, which keeps a
detailed list of mental health supports. You can also search by the
type of help you seek at: therapists.psychologytoday.com/
VETERANS: If youre a veteran, Veteran Affairs Canada has more
information, a crisis hotline and an assistance services centre.
For contact information, visit veterans.gc.ca/eng/services/
health/mental-health
WCB: If your PTSD, or that of your loved one, has been caused
through a work situation, the Workers Compensation Board might
be able to help. You can find more information on their website:
wcb.ab.ca/public/news/2012/PTSD.asp
NEW CANADIANS: New Canadians can find assistance with
mental health disorders (like PTSD) and other social services
through non-profit organizations including the Mennonite Centre
for Newcomers. Some schools can also be of assistance.

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

17

SPONSOR PROFILE

HELPING HANDS: EPCOR employees started their own volunteer


program called Helping Hands, which last August saw participants
stuff 600 backpacks for United Way.

KINDNESS CLUB
EPCOR employee volunteers prove first-hand how
giving back can benefit the whole community

TS A WEDNESDAY EVENING IN AUGUST 2014 AND A


team of 40 EPCOR employees and their family
members are in the back-to-school spirit at United
Ways In-Kind Exchange. Theyre volunteering their
time to stuff backpacks for Tools for School.
Im proud to work for a company that provides this kind of
opportunity, says Paula McGinnis, as she inserts school supplies
into bags. Not only are we helping those in need, it creates a
feeling of community within EPCOR.
This is one of the new group opportunities offered through
the companys recently-expanded volunteer program. Known as
Helping Hands, the program was launched in 2001. Historically
it was limited to solo acts of volunteering; individual employees
would donate 30 hours or more in a year and receive a $300
grant to direct to their chosen not-for-profit organization.
Participation in the program was consistent over time and
EPCOR CEO David Stevens felt an appetite existed for larger
group volunteer activities, says community investment manager
Connie Smart. As a company, we wanted to increase the overall
number of employees involved in volunteering, she says. That
meant finding out what the barriers were and how we could make
it more accessible.
The company formed an employee volunteer committee and
identified must-haves in the prescribed volunteer opportunities,
including flexibility, variety, and an impact that could be measured

18

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

or felt by participants. From this, the Helping Hands program


expanded to include team-building opportunities and group volunteering. Team-building primarily takes place during working hours,
while most group volunteering occurs outside the work day with
group sizes ranging anywhere from 15 to 100 employees. And if its
after hours, employees can bring family members and friends along.
I appreciate the opportunity to volunteer with my family, says
Terri Davison, who delivered Christmas hampers to ABC Head
Start families this past December as part of Helping Hands. I
want to instill in my children the joy of volunteering.
Getting involved is easy: EPCOR employees sign up and then
show up. The company coordinates the rest with the supported
organization. To date, opportunities have included Habitat for
Humanity, backpack stuffing for ABC Head Start and Tools
for School, a site clean-up in Kananaskis, and crafts at the
Bissell Centres child care program. There is consistently a higher
demand than available spots.
When that August evening at the In-Kind Exchange comes to
a close, the team had out-packed the 344 backpack goal set for
them by United Way, filling nearly 600 backpacks. They stopped
only because they ran out of room in the warehouse.
It was awesome to meet and work alongside other EPCOR
employees, says participant Meghan Mackintosh. I had such a
positive experience that I want to volunteer again and perhaps
next time Ill bring family along with me.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

Mental Health

Something
to
Talk About
by SHELLEY WILLIAMSON

Bernice Sewell
Registered Social Worker, SAGE
PHOTO: AMY SENECAL

WEs expert panel


explores the links
between mental
illness and poverty
among children,
families and seniors

WEMAGAZINE.CA

Jodie Mandick
Supervisor, The Support Network
PHOTO: AMY SENECAL

Mary Stewart, Community


Investment Specialist, United Way
PHOTO: NANCY CRITCHLEY

ITH AS MANY AS ONE IN FIVE CANADIANS


suffering from a mental health disorder at some
point in their lives thats approximately 4.5 million
people, carrying a cost of nearly $50 billion annually to the
countrys economy the subject of mental health is always a
timely one. WE magazine sat down with three Edmontonarea mental health experts for their take on the links between
mental illness and poverty, and mental health among seniors
and families. They also offered tips on how to best spur that
conversation, including broaching the topic with loved ones.

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

19

BERNICE SEWELL is a registered social worker


who, for the past 14 years, has worked at SAGE
(Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton) as
director of operations. In this role she manages 11
frontline programs aimed at meeting the needs of
the senior population including the Seniors Safe
Housing program. Bernice was instrumental in
the development of both the Seniors Safe House
program and the Seniors Abuse Helpline.
JODIE MANDICK is supervisor of help lines at
The Support Network. For the past three years she
has trained and supervised crisis workers, volunteers
and practicum students. She is a certified information
and referral specialist with the Alliance of Information
and Referral Systems Canada, and a certified crisis
worker with the American Association of Suicidology.
MARY STEWART is a community investment
specialist at United Way and has worked with children
and families for 25 years, primarily in early childhood
development and parental support. She recently
returned to Alberta after working in B.C., in early
intervention. She holds a masters in early childhood
education, with a focus on families with children who
have disabilities or developmental delay.

Q. How do you see mental health affecting


the people you work with?
BERNICE: There are many things that impact the mental
well-being of seniors. This is the time of their lives that they
are encountering many losses, including a loss of independence, loss of loved ones, loss of their home and the loss of
their drivers licence. Statistics tell us that the highest rate of
suicide in Canada is among men over the age of 80 (31 out of
every 100,000 people).
We also hear from seniors that they are reluctant to seek
help because they are from a generation where you were
thought of as crazy if you had a mental illness of any sort,
and that you were going to be locked in a padded cell.
In addition, there is also the ageist view that depression is
something that happens when you get old, therefore it goes
untreated. For this reason, mental illness also plays a role in
seniors becoming more isolated.
JODIE: Specific mental health concerns are the main issue
for approximately 14 per cent of Distress Line calls this year
this can range from issues like depression and anxiety to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. A full 34 per cent of our calls are

20

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

related to mental health in some capacity. Some of our callers are living with
mental health issues, and others are concerned friends and family members,
looking for help to support someone living with a mental health concern.
We know that one in five people will be diagnosed with a mental health
condition at some point in their lives, and so many more are affected through
the process of caregiving and support. The most common issues for callers
experiencing mental health concerns is isolation related to lack of support
services, stigma surrounding mental health and challenges with poverty and
meeting basic needs.
Symptoms can vary with each type of mental illness and each individual.
Some common symptoms to watch for are confused thoughts, delusions
or hallucinations, extreme fears or anxiety that seems out of proportion to
circumstances or events, extreme mood swings between depression and
mania (sometimes with overly reckless behaviour), disruption to usual sleep
patterns and talk or thoughts of suicide. While some of these symptoms are
uncomfortable or frightening to talk about, it is important to connect with
family, friends and professionals that can provide support.
MARY: At United Way, I work under the education pillar, and I have worked
with families with young children who have disabilities or developmental
delays. In our education pillar, we focus on the child, especially within the
family context.
When I look at mental health its through a broad lens. We try to impact
parent-child interactions. If you have a parent who is dealing with a mental
health issue, it affects their ability to respond to their child, and you can also
have a child who has some mental health issues, which affects their ability to
interact with their world and the people around them.
My background is infant mental health, which looks at that parent-child
relationship from birth, and the attachment process for parent and child.
Mental health affects life-long experiences, starting with that first parent-child interaction. It includes things like the ability of a child to selfsoothe, to transition from one activity to the next. Some of the information
from the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative talks about the serve and
return of a relationship, and the executive functioning for children all of
that is set within those early relationships.

Q. What are the links between mental health and poverty?


BERNICE: Even if they dont suffer from mental health issues, many seniors
live in poverty, on $1,600 per month or less. Only 70 per cent of their medication costs are covered and only a very minimal amount of dental expenses
and the cost of glasses are covered.
If someone has suffered from chronic mental illness all of their life, they
might have been on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH).
So lets fast forward to turning 65. First, seniors have to be able to understand the forms they are required to fill out. Once this is done, they receive
Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan and other seniors benefits. If they
meet some very specific requirements, they will make slightly more than they
did on AISH. However, their cost of living increases considerably from what
it was on AISH, under which all of their medication, dental and eye glasses

WEMAGAZINE.CA

WEMAGAZINE.CA

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

Mental Health

were covered. Once they turn 65, this is no longer the case.
their decision-making ability. Poverty with families is a very
It is also worthy to note that the shelters available in Edmon- complex and compounding issue.
ton do not meet the needs of the senior population for many
reasons, the first being that they are not accessible to walkers
Q. How can we start the conversation about mental
or wheelchairs.
health with our loved ones who may be affected?
JODIE: We know that theres a lot of overlap between mental
BERNICE: When it comes to seniors, its important to help
health and poverty. Coping with a mental illness takes signifidispel the myths that surround mental illness. Ask a person
cant time and energy that may otherwise be used seeking and
who has high blood pressure or diabetes if they would seek
maintaining gainful employment and attending and successtreatment for the disease, and the answer is always yes.
fully completing post-secondary education.
This provides an opportunity to talk about the similarities to
In addition to these challenges, many people with mental
mental illness.
illness struggle to maintain housing and other basic needs.
It is important to be well informed about available resources
Approximately 59 per cent of Edmontons homeless population
and exploring the persons ability to access those resources. It is
suffers from some form of mental health condition. Medicaimportant to name mental illness and talk about it.
tions for these health conditions can be very expensive, making
JODIE: The best thing we can do to start a conversation about
it hard to find the resources for proper food and clothing. There mental health is to show genuine care and concern.
is also a pervasive stigma surrounding mental health issues,
A major part of reducing the stigma around mental illness,
which exacerbates isolation and prevents people from accessand supporting people affected by it, is to address it directly
ing supports.
with a sense of empathy. RePoverty can also trigger and
member that, although you
Poverty can also trigger and worsen
worsen mental health issues,
may never have experienced
mental
health
issues,
particularly
when
it
particularly when it comes up
exactly what they are going
suddenly as a result of a loss, like comes up suddenly as a result of a loss, like
through, we have all been
divorce or the death of a loved
afraid or confused.
divorce or the death of a loved one.
one. Mental health and poverty
Allow the person to talk
Jodie Mandick, supervisor, The Support Network
often have a cyclical relationabout what is going on, and
ship, where poverty perpetuates
listen without judgment.
mental illness by preventing people from being able to access
Respect and acknowledge that the issues that trigger mental
supports; and mental illness consumes a significant amount of
health are real and valid to the person experiencing them. Help
time and energy, preventing people from focusing on increased
them build on the resilience that theyre already demonstrating,
financial stability.
and encourage them to access more resources and support. It
MARY: Poverty affects children right from conception. If a
can be helpful to connect them to support services for people
parent is living in poverty they typically dont have access to
living with mental health conditions, like the Canadian Mental
adequate nutrition, which impacts the childs brain developHealth Association, or a crisis line such as the 24-hour Distress
ment in utero. Compounding that, if youre a person living
Line at 780-482-0198.
in poverty, you are facing daily stressors due to an unstable
MARY: If its somebody you care about, its really just about
lifestyle, like Where do I live? How will I pay my hydro bill?
starting that conversation and saying, I am concerned about
Where is my childs next meal coming from? It becomes diffiyou. You are taking care of a lot how can I support you in
cult to respond to your child because you are focused on these
being responsive to your child? Start the conversation without
immediate issues. The link between poverty and mental health
judgment, talk to them about what resources are available.
starts right at birth and compounds from the parents experiOne of the things that came up when we were having our panel
ence and the experience of the child living in that unpredictdiscussion was recognizing that there are some diagnosable
able, possibly unsafe environment.
conditions, even in early childhood. Sometimes children need
What we do know about brain development is that if a parto be treated with medical interventions and psychotherapy.
ent, and consequently a child, is under toxic stress, it actually
A high percentage of our children and youth are suffering
becomes a toxic environment for the brain. Those neuropathfrom anxiety and depression, so its important for us to recogways are not able to develop, so a child is not able to learn or
nize that those are conditions that need intervention, but there
retain information well. And for the parent, stress impacts
are also ways that we can support, parents and children.

21

Healthy JOB
on
the

22

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

Mental Health

How businesses can address the challenges


of mental illness in the workplace
by ROBIN BRUNET

ETWEEN BOUTS OF CRIPPLING PARANOIA,


Richard Boulet realized he had hit
rock bottom in Vancouver, living in a
low-rent hotel and drinking away his monthly
$190 welfare cheque.

reductions in health-related quality of life, according to the


Public Health Agency of Canada.

STATISTICS CANADA DATA SHOWS THAT ON ANY GIVEN


week, at least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable
The Alberta-born man had trained as an architect and
to work due to mental health problems and Richard is a
worked across Canada in a variety of art-related jobs,
prime example of just how severe the personal consequences
but shortly after turning 30 in 1991, his mental health
can become. In retrospect, I was drinking my life away in
deteriorated to the point where he grew progressively
order to numb the pain, and I had no idea what was happenpsychotic and he was admitted to the hospital. After being to me other than I couldnt function, he says.
ing stabilized I chalked up
Karla Thorpe, director of
my paranoia and suicidal
prevention and promotion
One of the leading illnesses taking us
thoughts to smoking pot
initiatives for the Mental
out of the workplace is depression. In fact,
and the stress related to
Health Commission of
its
the
most
common
illness
affecting
trying to come out of the
Canada (MHCC), offers
closet, he recalls.
more troubling data with
Canadian workers.
But after moving to
regards to the workplace.
Ione Challborn, executive director of the Canadian
Vancouver to paint sets
The situation seems to be
Mental Health Association-Edmonton Region
for the film industry, his
getting worse: research has
afflictions returned; he
determined that 20 per
lost his job, was evicted from his apartment, and soon
cent of all Canadians will experience mental health issues
found himself in the seemingly dead-end world of soup
during their lifetime, up from numbers reported in findings
kitchens and homeless shelters.
of years past.
It wasnt until he turned 33 that Richard was diagOne of the leading illnesses taking us out of the worknosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, at which point he
place is depression. In fact, its the most common illness
had been living in poverty in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
affecting Canadian workers, says Ione Challborn, executive
But as soon as I was diagnosed, in Regina, and received
director of the Canadian Mental Health Associationtreatment in a group home, it was as if a huge weight had
Edmonton Region. Clinical depression is marked by an
been lifted off me, he says. Life literally turned around,
ongoing depressed mood and a loss of interest in normal
in no small way because I was surrounded by people who
activities and relationships, including those in the workunderstood what I was going through and helped me at
place. Chronic fatigue, insomnia and impaired concentraevery turn.
tion are also symptoms.
During this time when Richard was experiencing
United Way funds a community education program
these episodes, mental health wasnt openly recognized
through the CMHA that focuses on workplace wellness and
as a serious workplace issue and, as a result, Richard
stress management, aiming to counter the deleterious effects
says he lost a number of jobs. The reality is that mental
of mental illnesses, including depression, at work. United
health issues make up for approximately $50 billion per
Way has been critical to our success because initially we were
year including health care costs, lost productivity, and
simply lecturing about mental health at schools, but thanks

WEMAGAZINE.CA

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

23

to the organizations support, we have escalated our lectures,


health, it would be attitude: we laugh and joke and generally have a good
started skills training and are now determining ways to get
time, and that goes for our CEO and senior executives, not just staff. We
parents educated as well as developing student leaders to
share and promote this attitude, and when we recruit newcomers we
spearhead mental health promotion, says Ione. Its our way
ensure that they will be a good fit.
of trying to tackle the problem early on, to help people get
Although she has no hard data to illustrate the effectiveness of her
treatment before it turns into a workplace problem.
workplace initiatives, Cindy adds, None of them are particularly
Poor mental health impacts our performance in the
difficult to implement. And the payoff is substantial in that we all enjoy
workplace, but the impact of the workplace on mental
coming to work.
health is less clear. Thirteen factors have been identified
Another thing to consider: Employers and managers who dont pay
as affecting mental health, and they range from civility and
attention to the risks may foster a situation in which an employees existrespect to recognition and reward, says Karla. Of course,
ing mental health problems become worse. Moreover, Canadian courts
a lot of problems can stem
have rendered legal decisions attributing
from employees not being
the cause of some types of mental disorder
Employers and managers who dont
well-suited psychologically
to the acts of an employer.
pay attention to the risks may
for the job theyre doing,
Fortunately, Ione says employers are
foster a situation in which an
which makes thorough
more attuned to mental health issues than
employees existing mental health
screening processes all
ever before. Plus, they have substantial
the more important when
resources to turn to by contacting us, she
problems become worse.
hiring. To which Ione adds,
says. Its in their hearts and minds to deal
Screening should take the
with the problem, and organizations such
form of employers clearly stating what the expectations
as ours, with over 120 offices across the country, provide referral services
and requirements are of any particular job and then asking
to people with issues and support groups for both those with a mental
applicants what they would need to be successful in those
illness and their family.
jobs. After all, people with serious mental health issues
Meanwhile, the MHCC recently improved upon a document it released
such as depression and schizophrenia can still successfully
in 2013, the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in
work if given the proper support.
the Workplace, which was developed to help employers promote mental
Cindy Zahn, human resources advisor for the Alberta
health and prevent harm in the workplace. Over 21,000 copies of the
New Home Warranty Program (ANHWP), calls mental
Standard have been downloaded from our website, but weve gone a step
health issues a major workplace problem and one that
further by releasing an implementation guide to help employers fully
business leaders should pay close attention to, even if only
adopt the document, says Karla. The easy-to-use handbook, Assembling
for their own self-interest: employee downtime or poor
the Pieces, is available at no cost on the MHCC website.
performance ultimately compromises the reputation and
For his part, Richard, now 53, applauds the initiatives of United Way
success of any company.
and other community-based organizations, and he holds considerable
But the ANHWP is one of a growing number of workhope that in coming years fewer people with mental health issues will
places in which mental health is treated with the same care
suffer the dramatic downward spiral his life took.
and attention given to physical issues or injury, and not
As for his life now, Richard is able to lead a productive life and work
just because mental illnesses increase downtime and lessen
as a data entry clerk for the CMHA. His artwork has been exhibited
productivity. Essentially, we try to maintain a positive work
across Canada, including on the mask of Edmonton Oilers goaltender
environment, Cindy says. We promote a good work-life
Ben Scrivens, and he gives back by lecturing about mental health and
balance amongst our 55 employees through a comprehenvolunteering for various community organizations. Im in a good place
sive time-off policy, plus we monitor who is and who is not
in time, and Im living proof that with the right treatment and care you
taking days off as well as who is taking sick time.
can bounce back and make a real contribution to society, he says.
The ANHWP also has an employee assistance program
Ione concludes that while promoting mental wellness is challenging,
that provides support for everything from child and elder
shes confident that positive inroads will continue to be made. Everyone
care to stress issues. Basically, anyone can get assistance
from unions to workers compensation boards are focused on making
and is assured of complete confidentiality, says Cindy.
the workplace not only physically safe but conducive to ones psychologiHowever, if I had to cite the most beneficial aspect of
cal well-being, she says. Its good for people and its good for
our workplace with regards to promoting positive mental
business.

24

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

Elaine Shannon and her husband Ron.

A Lasting Legacy:

Elaines
Story
I

t happened back in 1992. Elaine Shannon was


volunteering for United Way and was asked to
give a presentation to the management team where
she worked. With little time to prepare, she didnt
have a chance to preview the video that United
Way provided.
When Elaine pressed play she got a real shock
she instantly recognized the person in the video. It
was someone she knew very well who had suffered
a devastating loss and the video shared how United
Way provided support to help with the grieving
process.
I started crying immediately. Everybody in the
room was looking at me! I said, I know her.
It was a moment Elaine will never forget. It was
also the moment she decided to become more
involved with United Way. I said to myself, If
they can do this for her, they have me for as long as
they need me.
Today, Elaine is a committed donor, passionate
about contributing to initiatives that are close to
her heart, especially helping children.
Having raised a family here, its really important
to me that all kids benefit from the advantages that
the Alberta Capital Region has to offer. Every child
should have the tools they need and be well-fed so
they can go to school and study.

Elaine is also concerned with ensuring her donations really make a difference.
United Way is a really great steward of donor investments but its more than fundraising, they are about
action. They bring people together to make a difference.
Im part of a movement that is saying, lets roll-up our
sleeves and do something.
Elaine and her husband, Ron, have since changed their
estate plans to include United Way in their wills. I
want my money to make a difference in the community
where I live, work and raise my family. I had been
asking myself What more can we do? It was an easy
decision for us.

How To Leave Your Legacy


There are several ways you can leave a gift in
your will to United Way.

Life Insurance Policy

Bequest

RRIF or RRSPs

Gift of Securities

Real Estate

For more information on how you can integrate


United Way into your estate plans, contact Donna
Roth, Senior Advisor, Community Investments.

780 443 8375


droth@myunitedway.ca
ADVERTISEMENT

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WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

YOUNG

INSPIRATION
Humanitarian,
educator and parent:
Sarah Chan now
adds fighting poverty
to her resum
by LISA OSTROWSKI

Photography by KELLY REDINGER

IANO TEACHER SARAH CHAN


sits near a student in front of
the piano at her Edmonton
home both are intently focused on
the sheet music in front of them. Sarah
carefully coaches the girl through a
difficult passage, offering the right mix
of encouragement and advice. She has
years of practice educating and opening
the musical minds of young children.
Her experience has taught her that
young people are an often overlooked
and untapped resource.

FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Years of teaching piano and educating


youngsters has taught Sarah Chan to view the citys youth as an
untapped and often overlooked resource for spurring change.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

What motivates me to work with kids is


that nothing is off limits, and theyve got a lot
of energy, Sarah says. They really enjoy challenging themselves, and they enjoy grappling
with things that might be difficult. As an
adult, its hard to redirect your energy to these
sorts of problems, but kids are really excited
to work with their peers to do something big.

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

27

KEY PLAYER: The wife of Mayor Don Iveson, Sarah Chan shares her husbands
desire to eliminate poverty in Edmonton, and has begun a new initiative with
United Way to get high school students involved.

This winter, Sarah began a new educational program


to involve the bright young citizens of Edmonton in
the fight against poverty, as part of a team working on
United Ways Youth Initiative. In many ways, this role is
a natural addition to her wheelhouse. She has experience
as a community-minded humanitarian, holding a post of
honorary patron for Youth Empowerment and Support
Services (YESS) and visiting with the iHuman Youth
Society, a non-profit organization that engages Edmontons traumatized youth who exhibit high-risk lifestyles
to foster positive personal development. And of course,

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WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

there are her years as a music teacher, imparting her knowledge to


dozens of young students. Shes also a busy mom raising two young children, Dexter and Alice, alongside her husband, Edmontons mayor Don
Iveson. After attending the Year Play organized by students at Scona
High School, Sarah began to rethink the possibilities of what could be
accomplished by youth in the community. The impressive performance,
in addition to her experience with the creativity of teens at iHuman, led
Sarah to believe that United Ways Youth Initiative was the best place to
focus her time.
The Youth Initiative is a program designed to increase awareness
among young people of local social issues, while looking for their input

WEMAGAZINE.CA

and solutions. In discussing the root causes, cyclical


Sarah realized the students needed someone to champion
nature and challenges presented to someone living in
and explain the need for more work within the city.
poverty, the initiative aims to use education as a tool to
If a community can come together to help other
improve the lives of the more than 120,000 people
communities across the world, its a wonderful thing to do,
currently living in poverty in the capital region. Sarahs
she says. Imagine what we could do for communities
role on the team is to begin engaging the citys youth in
that are just across the river. An LRT ride from where
the conversation.
youre living.
The goal of eliminating poverty is one she shares with
Starting in January, Sarah began educating local youth
her husband. In office, Mayor Iveson has demonstrated
about the issues surrounding poverty in Edmonton. In
his dedication to this cause with the creation of a task
her first presentations for students of the Edmonton
force dedicated to eliminating poverty. United Ways
Public School Board, Sarah has opened up a dialogue for
mission to create pathways out of poverty and the citys
young people, classes and schools to get involved in the
drive to eliminate it altogether
fight against poverty. Over
are so well-aligned that havthe next several months,
We thought the place that I would
ing Sarahs involvement just
the initiative will involve
made sense.
additional public, private
have the most resonance was with
Our theme is poverty is
and Catholic schools in
the younger age demographic.
solvable, says Myrna Khan,
Edmonton and the capital
Sarah Chan, United Way Youth Initiative Champion
vice president of resource
region. More than anything
development at the Alberta
else, the goal for this first
Capital Region United Way. We want to see what these
stage of the initiative is to educate young people about local
students are thinking about and what their solutions are,
issues that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.
and how can we engage them in the fight to end poverty.
The three-year program begins with educational presenLast summer, when she first sat down with United Way
tations and discussions at local schools. The second year
to discuss getting involved, Sarah was unsure of the possible
will aim to create experiences that encourage students to
outcomes. She knew that she wanted to support their work
continue the conversation on poverty elimination. Some
somehow, and she knew that United Ways mission was close schools may choose to get involved through communito her heart. But she didnt think she would be well-suited
ty volunteer commitments, while others may choose to
to speaking in front of potential donors. But through the
participate in United Ways Poverty Simulation. The youth
discussions, it became clear. We thought the place that I
initiative is flexible in its goals so that, as young people
would have the most resonance was with the younger age
get involved, they will be able to shape the future of the
demographic, because Im a teacher and Ive been working
program and their city.
with young people forever.
In its third year, the initiative will culminate with a
The Youth Initiative has been in the works since the fall
symposium of local students, bringing together a group
of 2014, when United Way began researching awareness in
from a diverse range of backgrounds to discuss the issues.
the local youth population. As the research progressed, it
From there, it will be up to the students to create their
became apparent that youth are often eager to get involved
own future.
in social issues.
We want to give students all the information, the tools
We noticed that many high school students are more so- for them to have conversations around what poverty elimcially aware and socially involved than in previous generaination is for our region. And then, where they take it is
tions, and what were seeing is that theres a lot of interest
going to be up to them, says Myrna.
in global issues like water and HIV, says Myrna. We see
So while Sarah works to find a delicate balance between
that these high school students have lots of energy, but we
her many roles, she continues striving to increase awarehavent really seen them getting involved in local issues
ness and compassion for those living in poverty in the
around poverty.
capital region. The work we start isnt going to be done in
You cant blame the students for a lack of understanding
my time here, she says. We have to make sure that theres
about the issues on a local level. After seeing work done by
a succession plan in place so that the work to eliminate
local schools and groups raising funds for global issues,
poverty in Edmonton within a generation goes on.

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WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

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WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

SCORECARD

NITED WAY TAKES THE NEXT STEP ON THE PATH TO A RESULTS-BASED APPROACH.
To help chart the course and measure success, the organization has developed its first-ever Impact
Scorecard outlining five strategies and goals over a three-year period. The Scorecard sets targets,
clearly defining the number of people that United Way will help and the ways it will contribute to lift people
from poverty. There has never been as clear a mandate for making and measuring significant impact or as
exciting a time to be involved. Find out how United Way of the Alberta Capital Region is keeping score.

$7.25
MILLION
The fundraising growth
needed to reach Scorecard
goals in these areas by 2016.

25%
The percentage of Edmonton
youth who do not currently
complete high school within
five years

10,780
The number of children, age
six years or younger, who now
live in poverty in Edmonton

Education
Vision: All children and youth achieve their full potential, complete high
school and set a course for a bright future
The Early Years: 5,300 infants and toddlers will benefit from this
United Way program (up from 2,800)
Success in School: 15,000 children and youth will complete high
school through this United Way program (up from 13,250)

Income
Vision: All people attain greater independence and financial stability,
contributing to their personal success and success of our economy
Managing Finances: 10,000 people will gain financial support
through United Ways new Benefits Navigator online tool;
1,230 people will benefit from United Ways financial literacy training
(up from 225)
Employment: 3,300 people will gain skills to succeed in the job
market (up from 2,300)

Wellness
Vision: Everyone feels a meaningful connection to the community,
enjoying a strong sense of well-being and safety for themselves and their
families
Mental Health: 23,480 people will help achieve mental health
counselling, including increased walk-in services and distress line support
(up from 17,900)

ILLUSTRATION: BEN RUDE

Annual fundraising and support from the community allows United Way
to continue providing critical programs and services delivered in the focus
areas of Education, Income and Wellness.
The five strategies and new targets outlined in this inaugural Impact
Scorecard are the first phase to help us move beyond just managing the
symptoms of poverty and closer to our goal of eliminating it.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

31

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WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

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TEAMING UP
Edmontons many community organizations have
pooled their expertise, forming a three-pronged plan
for access to mental health and other supports
by JACQUELINE LOUIE

N AVERAGE WEEKDAY FOR THE SMITHS


used to look like that of many other
Edmonton families. Structured around the
daily cycle of going to work, sending kids to school,
shuffling through after school programs, running
errands and managing their finances, the Smiths
often felt that it took a lot of energy just to keep their
heads above water.

is typical of many in Edmonton. The adage that we are all


just one layoff and a few months away from poverty often
rings true, and its situations like this that leave many feeling
stranded and helpless in the face of adversity. Often, this can
lead to greater distress, both financially and emotionally,
which could have been lessened.
But new, wide-ranging research coming out of the
Edmonton region aims
But in the fall of 2014, a
to change that. In late
crisis sent the family of four
2013, United Way of the
In late 2013, United Way of the Alberta
into turmoil. Mr. Smith lost
Alberta Capital Region, in
Capital Region, in partnership with the City
his job at a local store that he
partnership with the City of
of Edmonton, brought together a group of
managed, leaving the family
Edmonton, brought together
approximately
30
agencies
and
community
in financial trouble. To pick
a group of approximately
organizations that work in the areas of
up the slack, Mrs. Smith
30 agencies and community
counselling and mental health.
started working overtime
organizations that work in
during the week. Depressed
the areas of counselling and
from his time off work, and
mental health. Over a year,
unable to find quick employment elsewhere, Mr. Smith
the groups came up with both long- and short-term recombegan drinking too much at night and sometimes during
mendations aimed at improving access to services and making
the day. And while his wife tried to speak to him about their
the mental health system easier for people to navigate.
problems, she has become unsure of where to get help. She
People with very complex needs are coming to access seris worried about her family now, and she faces mounting
vices, and we are struggling, as a community, to meet all of those
pressures when it comes to money matters, child care and
needs, says Jean Dalton, director of Neighbourhood Health
medical insurance for her husband. Mrs. Smith knows that
and Personal Well-Being for United Way of the Alberta Capital
her family needs help, but doesnt know where to begin.
Region. The intention is to support people coming forward so
The Smiths are an imaginary family, but their experience
they can access the right service at the time they need it.

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WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

33

Last fall, three working groups were formed, focused


on specific community-based services, with each groups
challenge to develop a project centred on mental health.
This is a beginning, to start moving these recommendations to action, Jean says.
TRAINING THE FRONT LINES
Focusing on prevention, the first working group aims to
incorporate training in Mental Health First Aid, a best
practices program developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada for frontline staff, such as teachers and
coaches. Additionally, the group will research programs
and services for children from infants to age 12.
The second group seeks to build bridges between organizations, with the goal of decreasing barriers for families

34

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

to access mental health services. And the third group is putting together
a mental health literacy package, to increase knowledge and awareness of
mental health terms and explore existing databases regarding navigation
of services and support.
Ione Challborn, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health
Association Edmonton Region, is chairing the first working group, which
is looking at how to implement Mental Health First Aid. The program
provides the ability to respond in a meaningful and proactive way to
somebody having a challenge, Ione says. To really make a move on this, we
need to consider how to get the training to as many people as possible. How
do we encourage employers to make it a requirement of staff development?
Ione says there are some inherent barriers to the program. The Mental
Health First Aid curriculum takes two-days and is a significant time
commitment. There are not enough trainers in the city to have a very
comprehensive sweep of Mental Health First Aid training.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

Ione believes that discussions with the Mental Health


Commission of Canada on the possibility of breaking the
two-day curriculum into modules, with the additional
option of taking the program online could help. That way,
we would be able to get more people through the training,
she says.

For Dean, what makes the process of working together


worthwhile is having all the right people at the table. Their
pooled expertise makes them the people who can implement change, he says.

REACHING THE PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY


Toby Rabinovitz, executive director of OPTIONS Sexual
GIVING CHILDREN A STRONG START
Health Association, a United Way funded agency providing
Providing services like family counselling through divorce
sexual and reproductive health counselling and educational
or violence is a key mandate of many of the organizations
services, is heading up the third working group, which
now trying to streamline their process.
seeks to enhance community-based mental health services,
Dean McKellar, the City of Edmontons supervisor of
capacity and supports. The third working group is develassessment and short-term counselling, says that people
oping training around common language and examining
who approach helping organizations find themselves having
existing databases for referring clients to help them navigate
to tell their story over and over again. A better scenario, he
through the system. This group looks at common issues a
explains, would be for someone to come in for help, tell their
client faces, answering questions such as Why would I need
story once, and promptly receive the support they need.
to visit a mental health professional? How long would I need
The second working group is
to see them? What can I talk
hoping to help mitigate this
about?
problem by improving how
The goal is to help
The goal is to help families like
organizations work together,
families like the Smiths,
the Smiths, who are in need of various
while keeping the client front
who are in need of
support systems, understand how to access
and centre. It will also focus on
various support systems,
support
by
mapping
out
the
possible
ways to foster positive mental
understand how to access
pathways of where they could go to
health in children and youth.
support by mapping out the
solve
their
problem
and
connect
with
The group is taking its cues
possible pathways of where
from a smaller-scale successful
they could go to solve their
the appropriate people.
initiative between the City
problem and connect with
of Edmonton and the Today
the appropriate people. For
Family Violence Help Centre. Now, if someone who needs
the Smiths, that might mean approaching a counsellor who
help calls the City of Edmonton when they actually need the
can help them pinpoint other social systems, like substance
services of the Today Centre, rather than simply giving out
abuse programs, financial assistance to help pay the bills
the centres number, the city staffer instead keeps the caller
and free after-school programs for their children.
on the line, connects with the centre and briefs them about
Its a complex issue from a system perspective and a
the nature of the call. That keeps the client at the centre of
clients perspective. There is no quick fix, Toby says. She
the conversation, Dean says. It gets the person connected
wants to increase access to available resources and shorten
to the right place on the first phone call.
waiting lists.
To this end, the working group, which is reviewing the
According to Toby, the process of working together is
continuum of support available to area families, is seeking
unique in the sense that we are looking at very tangible
to pull together organizations that are already working in
actions, she says. Hopefully well be able to continue on
this area. Ideally, one of the proposed end goals is to develthis process once we finish this particular strategy.
op a tool kit that organizations can use to help streamline
Looking ahead, Toby can see the working groups imthings for their clients, Dean says.
plement numerous short-term processes, with the goal of
The next step involves understanding the kind of agreeinfluencing the system as a whole. They plan to meet up to
ments that are currently in place in the region, and what
share their projects near the end of May.
other organizations could also benefit from the working
The strategy is really positive: What can we do in the
groups solutions.
short term to make a difference?

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WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

35

KATHLEEN POWER

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WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

WEMAGAZINE.CA

DO Drop In
by JEN JANZEN

Photography by AMY SENECAL

Five city organizations have partnered to offer


on-the-spot counselling services to Edmontonians
by JEN JANZEN

photography by AMY SENECAL

ATHLEEN POWER SIPS HER TEA


and smiles at the two volunteer
therapists sitting beside her.
Ready to start? she asks them, her
finger poised on the mouse, ready to
connect to WebEx, the software that will
allow them to link the group to a session
thats about to take place across the city.
Today, the counselling sessions are being
offered at the Boys and Girls Club Big Brothers
Big Sisters (BGCBigs) in north Edmonton. The
intern therapist at the counselling site answers
the call and the camera on the other end of the
call comes into focus, the group sees a preteen
boy sitting across from the intern therapists
desk. Having this technology allows the group to
participate in the session and offer support to the
boy without being there.
Kathleen is the clinical supervisor of Edmontons new single-session drop-in counselling
program, run by The Family Centre and jointly
sponsored by United Way of the Alberta Capital
Region and the City of Edmonton. It seeks to
serve the counselling needs of diverse populations
scattered across the entire city, all while operating
on a modest budget.
The Family Centre is working with four other
organizations to provide a service that assists Edmontonians in different situations across various
demographics, such as seniors, children, and new

WEMAGAZINE.CA

Canadians. Partnering with The Family Centre


are BGCBigs, the Canadian Mental Health Association - Edmonton Region, the Edmonton John
Howard Society and the Seniors Association of
Greater Edmonton (SAGE). Together, theyre able
to offer counselling services in six locations: in the
west, north-west, east and downtown. The service
is free, operates on a first-come, first-served basis
and no referral is needed.
The program is a continuation of the service
previously offered by The Support Network,
which ended its drop-in counselling program in
2012 after fiscal pressures made it necessary to
choose between continuing the drop-in service or
bolstering its 24/7 Distress Line.
In June, United Way and the City of Edmonton
sent out a request for proposals to create another
drop-in counselling program to fill the growing
need for these services in the community. They
received dozens of creative applications, but it was
The Family Centres vision of city-wide partnerships that really stood out. Jean Dalton, director
of neighbourhood health and well-being for United Way, says the plan was appealing because of its
potential to reach people who may otherwise not
have been able to access or who may not have
even thought about accessing traditional counselling services. We thought it would be workable
in our community because United Way and the
City were looking at how to deliver services in

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

37

DROP-INS WELCOME: Rod Rode, left, and Kathleen Power of The Family Centre would
like to see drop-in counselling services increase to 30-36 hours per week among the six
partner organizations, from its current 18 hours being offered.

different parts of Edmonton, she says.


Rod Rode is executive director of The Family Centre. He says
the five partnering organizations have collaborated in the past and
share common values. We did not have to do a lot of the important
groundwork you have to do to establish a partnership, he says.
That work was already done. We know and trust one another. We
hit the ground running.
Its a rather serendipitous arrangement that will use each organizations existing resources such as office space and administrative
services, office supplies and advertising. The partnership, which is
also largely volunteer-run, will keep costs down.
Currently, drop-in counselling is available for three hours a week
at six locations across the city, for a total of 18 hours, with increased
hours to come as the program gets established. Rod says the service
has two key benefits: increasing mental health service availability
across the city, and attracting people who are not willing or able
to access traditional counselling services. Rod cites research on
stating the effectiveness of drop-in, single-session counselling,
adding many clients could be served with a single session. Fifty
per cent of people who require counselling only need one or two
sessions. When were thinking about reaching people who are not
currently using traditional services, a single session drop-in service
could take care of quite a few people, he says, adding that drop-in

38

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

sessions are a critical piece of the continuum of care. Some


people will need more counselling, but they can wait for that
counselling appointment. The ones who need only one session
will walk in, identify their most pressing issue and walk out
with an action plan.
Kathleen says the therapists use a strengths-based approach.
If were intentional as therapists and listening carefully to the
client, were able to help the client look at their own strengths
and coping mechanisms, and how their current problems can
be solved using those resources. She adds that clients are
encouraged to take an active role in coming up with solutions.
Its really important to empower the client that the solution is
with them, she says.
Rod speaks highly of the City of Edmontons Family and
Community Support Services division and United Way,
the drop-in counselling programs funding partners. An integrated approach by funding bodies makes administration and
accountability easier and less costly, he says, adding that the
City and United Way dont just send money; the two organizations play an important role in investigating, and meeting,
the need for mental health services. United Way and the City
have been working actively with a large number of non-profit
agencies to identify gaps in the continuum of mental health

WEMAGAZINE.CA

services in Edmonton. They have insight to offer regarding


of the drop-in services goals is to reach more men. Were still
the nature and scope of the challenge that goes well beyond
very socialized to think that men should have all the answers.
providing revenue.
Theyre supposed to know how to fix things themselves, she
Robin Murray, executive director of the Edmonton John
explains. We see it as part of our work to soften some of the
Howard Society, sees the partnership as a first step towards
stress in their lives.
a more resilient community. I believe we are just scratching
This is where the multiple locations fit into the plan. As the
the surface of what this collaboration will result in, and Im
partners outline in their proposal, some refugee and immivery excited about where this is leading us, he says.
grant communities have people who came from traumatizing
One important aspect of single-session counselling is
situations but are reluctant to come forward and admit they
that its not meant to solve every problem. Were asking
need help. It takes patience to reach these people, the partthe client to be very specific about one issue for that day,
ners wrote in their proposal. Some people are more inclined
Kathleen says. Theres no limit to the amount of counselling
to view the service as safe if located relatively nearby and in a
sessions a client can attend
familiar building.
and, in the three months
Rod says the goal is to inWhen were thinking about reaching
since the program started,
crease the hours that drop-in
people who are not now using traditional
the team has already seen
counselling is available the
services, a single session drop-in service
some repeat clients whove
objective outlined in the proworked on one part of their
posal is to eventually offer 30
could take care of quite a few people.
issue and then come back
to 36 hours per week but he
Rod Rode, executive director of The Family Centre
to the service to explore
emphasized the partners want
another side.
to grow the program slowly
Each of the patient-side counsellors are clinical interns
and carefully to ensure its sustainable at all stages. For the
studying for their masters or PhD degrees. Theyre enrolled
first few weeks, advertising was minimal in order to give the
in an eight- or 10-month internship with The Family Centre
partners, staff members and volunteers time to familiarize
and have diverse responsibilities: they work in schools and
themselves with the new processes. Now, with the programs
deliver traditional counselling as well as single-session counwebsite launch, theyre ready to present themselves to the city.
selling. Power is around for all of the drop-in hours and she,
Kathleen says shes already seen a lot of positive outcomes
along with a team of three or four volunteer therapists, sits
stemming from the drop-in counselling program and shes
in on every session via WebEx, which is similar to Skype but
excited to see where it will go. She has worked in counselling
encrypted for confidentiality.
for 26 years, and for her, its seeing clients realize their own
Each session follows a similar structure. The intern therstrengths thats the most rewarding. When clients come
apist meets with the client, and together they discuss the
back to report their successes, were often quite struck with
problem. Throughout the session, the on-screen therapists
how theyve taken their session. It wasnt necessarily how
are free to ask the client questions and then, at 40 minutes,
we would have taken it, but because of their strength and
theres a break in which the group comes together to craft a
resourcefulness they solve the problem in a novel way.
message to the client. Were highlighting their strengths and
their abilities to solve problems, and were also acknowledgPILLARS OF SOCIETY
ing the dilemmas theyre facing. We know its quite effective
for clients to know that a team has listened, that theres more
Supporting Edmontonians mental health is a key aspect
than one person trying to help, Kathleen says.
]of eradicating poverty. In its Creating Pathways Out of
As of the beginning of December, just three months into
Poverty report, United Way identified three focus areas:
its operation, the drop-in program has seen close to 50
education (supporting early childhood development and
clients, including children, seniors, immigrants, Aboriginal
high school graduation), income (supporting people to
people and those living in poverty. Kathleen says offering the
achieve financial independence) and wellness, of which
service through the different partner agencies is an effective
mental health is a crucial aspect.
way to help segments of society that would otherwise be
For more information on drop-in counselling
difficult to reach. Some clients would never think of a thervisit www.dropinyeg.com
apeutic relationship as a resource, she says, adding that one

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39

B USINESS WAY

Creative
Campaign
Next Digital puts the fun
into its fundraising and
drums up $11,000 for
United Way initiatives
by SAMUS SMYTH

HIS EYES WERE CLOSED AND


his chin was tucked slightly downwards to
minimize the inevitable whipped cream
up the nostrils. Next Digital president
Andrew Jackson held his breath and
waited for the soft whump. Still, he was
surprised when it came, lobbed by one of
his staffers and accompanied by a round
of laughter from the onlookers. Beneath
the sugary muck, a smile spread on
Andrews face, happy to take a pie in the
face to raise money for United Way.
This, along with a game of Office
Survivor and other activities, were
among highlights of the day. Also on
the program was a moving speech that
helped inform Next Digitals staff and
stakeholders about the benefits of the
United Way programming. The small
Edmonton-based tech company raised an
outstanding $11,000 for United Way in its
first year of fundraising.
United Ways Annmarie Weishaar
commended the Next Digital leaders who
executed a near-perfect rookie campaign.
Forty people raised over $10,000,
Annmarie says. That is a big impact for a
small company.
Next Digital, an in-house information
technology company, recently brought
on board former United Way campaign

40

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

manager Jackie Ferner, who recognized


that her new team was eager to give back
to their community.
Jackie pitched the two-week United
Way campaign to a few co-workers, and
with unanimous approval the plot was put
in motion. The strategy was to keep it
simple and fun, says Jackie. That meant
generating a contagious level of excitement throughout the office to ensure
every member was on board.
A popular Friday activity was a staff
raffle game, so Jackie, along with her
campaign co-leader Matt Strachan,
decided to raise the stakes and adapt the
tradition, making Office Survivor part of
the fundraiser. Participants donated $10
and everyone placed his or her name in
a hat. Then everyone removed a name
until only one remained in the hat, and a
winner was declared.
What generated the most attention
was United Ways guest speaker, who
struck a chord with everyone. Project
Adult Literacy Society (PALS) client Ali
Elhag spoke about the peer mentorship
program that helps newcomers to Canada
with learning English. The man was given
such tremendous help via the program,
which helped him learn to read and get
a job in Calgary, that he now serves as a

mentor himself. That was a deal closer


for everyone. Once they heard that story,
everyone wanted to donate, says Jackie.
Next Digitals ownership matched
every dollar that was donated. Managing
partner John Mclaughlin says the fact
that it was a grassroots endeavour made
it that much more special. It was a
top-down thing. It was really cool to see
everyone get engaged and have a great
time. It makes everyone proud to be part
of Next Digital, John says. Funds from
this year will fund programs and services
in the Alberta Capital Region that help
achieve United Ways goal of creating
pathways out of poverty.
Offering incentives such as early bird
prizes and a day off with pay, along
with an educational component helped
the companys fundraising success. Of
course, the crowd-pleaser was probably
watching the company president take the
pie in the face. To ensure nobody missed
the spectacle, the event was broadcast
online to their other offices in Alberta.
The rest of the Next Digital family is
hoping to get on board with fundraising
for 2015, says Annmarie. They have
set the bar so high in their first year,
hopefully they can maintain it or even
surpass it.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

L EADING EDGE

Group Effort
The Urban Aboriginal Family Resource Centre brings a
collaborative approach to helping youth seek the good life
by LISA OSTROWSKI

UP UNTIL A YEAR AGO, SCHOOL


attendance was a challenge for Harmoni
Bunnie. As she approached high school,
Harmonis interest in classes was
dwindling. Her mother wanted to see her
succeed, but didnt know how to help
her along. After hearing about the Youth
Navigator program, a new initiative from
Edmontons Urban Aboriginal Family
Resource Centre (UAFRC), she thought it
might be a tool to help her daughter forge
a path in life.
The Youth Navigator program aims
to provide individualized support to
aboriginal youth in need of guidance in a
number of difficult areas, including school
attendance, substance abuse and crime.
With funding assistance from United
Way, the program focuses on improving
the lives of local aboriginal youth by
addressing the challenges facing their
communities. The program is a one-to-one
support system that pairs youth in need
of assistance with a Youth Navigator
dedicated to helping them through
their personal obstacles. Through their
engagement with the program, the teens
build trust and develop life skills that will
aid them in finding the right path.
The scope of issues and struggles
that these young people face is huge.
Were working with them individually,
with where theyre at, to help guide them
through barriers and on to more positive
things in their life, says Jodene McIsaac,
acting program manager for youth
services at UAFRC.

WEMAGAZINE.CA

Youth can be referred for placement


with a Navigator by family, friends,
teachers or even themselves. Once
the UAFRC receives a referral, which
includes specific details on the young
persons individual situation, the youth
is matched with one of the Navigators.
Each of the Navigators has unique
strengths, which are also taken into
account in the pairing. Workers build
relationships with the youth, and assist
them in finding their own identities as
aboriginal teens.
After being referred to the program
by her mother, Harmoni met with
Jennifer Bryce, one of the UAFRCs
Youth Navigators. Through one-onone meetings and regular check-ins,
Harmoni says her motivation has
increased. Jen is so positive, shes got
such a positive energy, she says.
Some of the values of our agency are
interconnectedness, relationships and
cultural connection, so we work with

them on these values, says Jodene.


We want them to make better choices,
have more positive thinking, and have
better community engagement.
The three Youth Navigators in the
program typically carry a case load of
12-15 teens each. This means that Jennifers busy schedule wont always allow
for in-person meetings with Harmoni.
Instead, Jennifer goes the extra mile by
staying in touch through regular phone
calls and text messages.
I go to school now, and Im looking for a
job, Harmoni says. The program is what
really helped me. I probably wouldnt have
done this much without it.
While the program has shown
promising results, the UAFRC hopes
to bring on additional youth workers
to meet rising demands. Due to the
customized and personal nature of each
Youth Navigator relationship, capacity
for additional cases is needed to build
on the programs successes so far.

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

41

MILESTONES

Beyond
Tokenism

Community partner has


created conditions to help
clients succeed for 40 years

by MARTIN DOVER

WHAT DOES A GREAT COMMUNITY


look like? At its base, the answer is
pretty simple. Most of us want a community where children grow within a
family and learn together in neighbourhood schools, where adults work at real
jobs, where people have real homes
and friends, and where they contribute
to their communities. These are the
goals of the Gateway Association, too.
This is the organizations 40th year of
serving families and people who live
with intellectual disabilities, many who
are also on the autism spectrum. And
for 33 of those years, Gateway has
been a United Way partner.
The Gateway Association has four
main thrusts, says its director of
employment supports Renate Burwash.
There is family support, mentorship,
and education and awareness. The
fourth pillar inclusive employment
is where the group focused its efforts.
Many Gateway clients are people who
might not qualify for other employment
programming. The association administers the My Life Personal Outcome
Survey, which revealed (among other
things) that people with intellectual
disabilities seek meaningful work.
To address the needs of this subset,
Renates team, along with executive
director Cindy DeBruijn, came up with
the We Belong program, which aims

42

WE WINTER/SPRING 2015

CHRIS HENDERSON

to employ clients in meaningful work


in which they can excel and add value
to their employers. We get to know
the family, the situation and the whole
person to get a good idea of where
they might fit.
But thats only part of the story.
We also identify potential employers,
to find out where their staffing
problems lie, Renate says. Companies
might have a position that experiences
high turnover, which negatively
impacts other roles in the company
and the bottom line. With the employer,
Renates team unpacks the role into its
component elements. We often find
that we have a client who would be
great at, say, eight of the 12 tasks the
position requires, she says. Willing employers might then opt to redistribute
the remaining four elements and take
other tasks off of other employees lists
to create a job at which the Gateway
Association client can excel. Suddenly,
they have a reliable employee who
shows up on time and adds value,
Renate says. We want to create real
opportunities, not tokenism.
The We Belong program is
what brought Chris Henderson to
Weiss-Johnson, a furnace and sheet
metal company in Edmonton. I started
in April 2014, so its been almost a
year, Chris says. I work in mainte-

nance and shipping and receiving.


It was a learning curve at first, says
Barry Gabruch, human resources manager at Weiss-Johnson. Chris wasnt
sure exactly what to do, and the other
guys didnt know what he was capable
of. Still, Barry knew Chris was willing,
so he consulted with Renate. In the end,
Barry made a schedule, and once Chris
saw it, he knew exactly where to be and
what to do it was a tool that helped
him excel, and it helped his colleagues
work well with him, too.
I get along with everyone, Chris
says, and Im good at helping out.
Barry agrees. Once Chris had that
schedule and the expectations were
clear, he really stepped up, he says.
Hes always on time and almost never
misses a day.
Gateway Association celebrated its
40th anniversary by releasing the We
Belong mobile app at its February 6
gala. The goal of the app is to reward
inclusive businesses like Weiss-Johnson
by giving consumers a quick, easy place
to find those employers. It works like
this: a consumer looking for a coffee
shop can search the We Belong app to
find one nearby that practices inclusive
employment and opt to spend their
cash there. Its a way of rewarding a
business by choosing to spend money
there, instead of with a competitor.
WEMAGAZINE.CA

Complex Problems
Have Solutions

Poverty is Solvable.
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Donate now.
We are all part of the solution.

myunitedway.ca

Did you find all 17 words?


Visit myunitedway.ca for a complete list.

Today Caitlin powered her City


in a diFFerent way.

What really connects us as Edmontonians isnt


just wires and water lines its the urge to lend
a hand when its needed.
Through a variety of programs, EPCOR employees like Caitlin
give back to our community. Today that means donating her
time to a local animal rescue organization.
Find out whats happening in your community by
visiting epcor.com/community.

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