The Central East Mental Health Committee, led by the Chairs of the Central East and Simcoe-Muskoka Mental Health Implementation Task Forces, decided to reinvest unspent task force funds toward activities that help to implement their plans. Following a consultation process with providers, consumer/survivors and family members, two specific projects were agreed upon: peer support education and public education. The geography targeted in these initiatives is Simcoe County, York Region, Haliberton/Kawartha/Pine Ridge and Whitby – given the close relationship between Simcoe and Muskoka, Muskoka was added as a partner.
The project to establish peer support education was co led by Kate Storey: who was involved in designing and delivering Like Minds: Peer Support Education, and Tanya Shute: the Executive Director of the Krasman Centre, a Consumer Survivor Initiative (CSI) embedded in the principles and values of recovery. Ann Thompson, a survivor/recovery educator and professor at York University teaching recovery and critical social work, was hired to support this project.
At the same time, Aleta Armstrong, the Community Awareness Coordinator and Gina Frederick, both from CMHA were the co- leads of the second project and they established a working group to consider options for the public education campaign. Early into the process, the four co-leads decided there was synergy in combining the leadership for both projects, and after consultation with both working groups decided to align the outcomes with the principles and values of recovery.
The larger vision is known as Building a Culture of Recovery. It includes a comprehensive recovery education strategy for consumer/survivors, including: Like Minds: Peer Support Education, self-help tools such as Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP), and group facilitation using Pathways to Recovery. Educational sessions are scheduled for March/April 2008 for mainstream providers and will provide orientation to recovery, an audit/assessment for organizations and supports to shift attitudes and practice. A clearing house, which is a repository of educational material for the programs noted above, as well as links to recovery resources, will be available on this website.
The public education strategy became a documentary called: Extra Ordinary People, produced and directed by Laura Sky, of Sky Works. This full length documentary was premiered as the closing event at the Rendezvous with Madness film festival in Toronto November 17, 2007. Portraits of people living in recovery with mental health and addiction problems evoke awareness and compassion which are the kindling that ignites a spirit of advocacy, a spirit of change – the spirit of recovery!
These stories expose the various levels of discrimination experienced by the Extra Ordinary people who have risked their comfort to shake that of the public, and to ignite hope in the hearts of their peers. The stories demonstrate the power of dignity, spirit and hope found in recovery. A companion educational tool is under development that will support facilitators to engage audiences in deeper discussion and awareness of mental health and addiction, recovery and discrimination.