Mental health peer support group launching

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A new peer support group for families with a loved one with mental health issues will start Feb. 20 in Airdrie with a 10-week pilot project financially supported by the Thumbs Up Foundation. Thumbs Up founder Kim Titus said the foundation believes peer support has been lacking in the community.

“People are hungry for this and the momentum is there,” she said. “We’re advocating because we know of a service that has over 20 years of proven experience.”

Cool Family Solutions will be offering the 10-week pilot project in Airdrie. Titus said she hopes the program will grow roots and become part of what is offered on a regular basis.

“The focus that we’re looking for is that there be an understanding in the community that there is this kind of service available, that we’re bringing it to the community,” she said.

“The community is going to drive it. They’ll see the value in it and create that demand. The possibilities are endless. This is the starting point.”

Mona Cooley founded Cool Family Solutions in 2008 after her own family was impacted when her daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“She had a psychotic episode (in 1995), which threw us into a very traumatic situation…and (it was) us basically as a family figuring out how to support her in a healthy way,” she said.

Cooley said her family connected with someone who could help them understand her daughter’s diagnosis. With the help of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Cooley developed her skills as a mental health and peer support counselor.

“We started a family peer support and I’ve led that group for most of 20 years. There was nothing for families and today there’s barely anything for families, still,” she said.

Cooley said the program will help families develop a skill set so when a crisis with a loved one happens, they have tools to help them through.

“I care enough to be honest with families and care enough to be honest with loved ones,” Cooley said. “We have discussions on tough topics…to get everyone engaged in the process. Having a topic is (a way) to get people to share information and get them to talk.”

Discussion topics include communication, setting boundaries and trust. Problem solving is also an important part of the program, according to Cooley. Participants will have an opportunity to work on their personal issues and come up with problem-solving techniques.

A total of 10 participants will take part in the pilot project, which will run from 7 to 9 p.m. in the boardroom at the Highland Primary Care Network office on Centre Avenue S.W. beginning Feb. 20.

Titus said those participating will be required to commit to attending all 10 weeks.

“They’re not just coming to help themselves; they’re actually helping Cool Family Solutions and they’re actually helping Thumbs Up and they’re actually helping the community,” she said.

“We’re really appreciative of people in our community…who are going to allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to participate in a pilot project.”

Anyone interested in being part of the pilot project should contact Cooley by email at mona.cooley@coolfamilysolutions.com

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