The Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington’s Self Help Services is partnering with Woolwich Community Services to provide increased mental health and addictions support in Elmira.
Introducing three new peer support groups that will cover depression and anxiety, addictions and supporting a family member living with mental health or addictions issues, this is the first time CMHA Waterloo Wellington has offered peer groups in the region’s township.
“Having these groups run in Elmira allows easier access for those who would use public transportation to attend the same groups in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Many K-W groups can run in the evenings, and local public transportation does not run late enough,” said Tina Reed, coordinator of community support at WCS. “We are excited to be able host these groups at Woolwich Community Services.”
The groups came about as a result of community interest, through both individual members and organizations within the area who reached out to CMHA Waterloo-Wellington.
“Peer support groups are an opportunity for people to come together and realize that they are not alone in experiencing issues like depression, anxiety, addiction or for caring for a loved one with mental health and addiction issues,” said Keely Phillips, manager of self help services with CMHA Waterloo Wellington.
“Typically our rural areas have not had the same resources. We know that a lot of folks in Elmira, although they might be interested in attending a peer support group, say in Kitchener or Guelph, transportation issues or the fact that a lot of our groups in the city are offered during the day, have made it difficult. This is one way to be able to better meet the community’s needs.”
The first of the three new offerings is a depression and anxiety group that meets weekly on Tuesday evenings from 7- 8:30 p.m., facilitated by peers participants share experiences, information and provide mutual support to promote and maintain optimal health.
“We have the depression and anxiety peer support group, which is for people who identify as having lived experience of having depression or anxiety,” said Phillips. “People come together they share their experiences in a safe way and they also share coping tools to be able to provide each other with hope groups are facilitated by staff and a volunteer.”
The second meets every second Wednesday, starting this week, from 7-8:30 p.m. The addictions group is for people struggling to break the cycle of addiction, those who have a difficult time recognizing triggers through peer-led discussions on how to create safe and healthy chances.
“The addictions peer support group is similar to the depression and anxiety group, so people who identify as having lived experience of an addiction – any addiction – and that group also has some content pieces too it, as well, in terms of helping people learn some new skills around dealing with substance use or behaviour addictions,” she explained.
Beginning next Wednesday, November 22 from 7-8:30 p.m. and alternating with the addictions group, is the supporting the supporter group. This peer-led group is for people who are supporting a family member or friend living with mental health or addiction issues – discussing mental health, how best to be supportive while considering personal boundaries, community resources and self-care.
“We know that caregivers can feel isolated in their experience as well and for them being able to connect with other people going through similar things, they are able to share strategies and be able to express what they are going through with people who are understanding because they have been there,” she said.
All groups are held at the WMC in Elmira, 5 Memorial Ave., and are walk-in style, Phillips explained, meaning there is no need to register beforehand nor do people have to provide a lot of information on arrival to participate.
As Canada’s largest CMHA, the Waterloo Wellington chapter serves all ages, providing those with addictions, mental health or development needs with full-care systems.