Recognizing Recovery in Alberta
September is Recovery Month, and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Alberta recognizes the importance of coming together with organizations across the world in acknowledging what recovery truly means.
Whether it’s recovery from substance addiction or overcoming mental health challenges, CMHA in Alberta is committed to raising awareness, advocating for resources, and centering lived experience to define what recovery is and make it accessible to all Albertans.
The pandemic has presented challenges that make this commitment more important than ever. The Government of Alberta has reported that the opioid crisis has seen new extremes, with drug poisoning deaths rising a staggering 120 per cent between 2019 and 2021. Meanwhile, a Health Quality Council of Alberta survey has revealed that 72 per cent of respondents have had difficulty coping with the pandemic, with an additional 28 per cent reporting an increase in alcohol consumption over the past two years.
The heavy impacts COVID-19 has had on Albertans’ mental health is well-documented, with a mental health sector that has experienced accessibility issues, isolation causing strain on Canadians’ mental wellness, and generally uncertain times making it a difficult past couple of years.
For CMHA in Alberta and its projects, these issues outline the importance of continuing the conversation around making mental health matter in our province and the tangible steps we can take to facilitate recovery for Albertans in need.
Recovery College and Defining Recovery
All Albertans experience a recovery journey at some point in their lives, be it their own experience, that of a significant other, of friends or of family. This process can take many forms, and Recovery Colleges across Alberta offer inclusive learning spaces where anyone who is interested in supporting their recovery can access information, support, and community connections along the way:
“…our educational-based approach focuses on helping people recognize and develop their own resourcefulness and awareness in order to support themselves or their loved one’s recovery journey.”
Recovery College provides free, recovery-based programming for individuals, families, the workplace, and cultural and spiritual communities. With seven colleges serving communities across the province through CMHA Alberta, Recovery College ensures courses are co-developed and co-facilitated with the community and peers with lived experience. In an evaluation by PolicyWise for Families and Children, participants of Recovery College remarked that this peer-to-peer format with people that had experience with mental health challenges provided relatable facilitators, opportunities to build friendships and community, and a positive, supportive environment.
“It is unusual for somebody to go a lifetime without any trauma or any sort of mental health issues. These days, we struggle so much, and we struggle in silence, and we can really help each other. Recovery College allows that. You get to join people who know what you’re going through – who understand, who care, and who want to help you.” – Bonnie Opperman, Peer Facilitator with Recovery College Alberta.
Accessibility is Key
Another element of Recovery College’s offerings is the option for either in-person or online courses. Through the pandemic, online resources have become more prevalent than ever before, and they come with additional benefits from a mental health lens. In an article published by Cambridge University in 2016 examining the perks of online peer-to-peer support, it was determined that online options make seeking support more accessible not only in remote locations, but also for people with mental illnesses or disorders experiencing symptoms that act as barriers for in-person support (Naslund, Aschbrenner, Marsch & Bartels, 2016).
By emphasizing personal connection and community through educational, peer-delivered content that helps equip people with the skills they need to support themselves or a loved one in recovery, Recovery College Alberta is ensuring that Albertans have the support they need to take the next step in their journey to recovery.
This Recovery Month, CMHA in Alberta invites you to learn more about the CMHA projects supporting individuals on recovery journeys across the province, to explore supports available to you and your loved ones in your community, and to be part of destigmatizing recovery in Alberta.
For more information or to find a Recovery College near you, please visit alberta.cmha.ca/recoverycollege.
If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please call 211 (in Alberta) or your local distress line.