Connecting with our community

In early March, we met with UBC Counselling Services and presented SHARE to their team. I initially introduced SHARE to a previous counsellor when I reconnected with her to learn more about the field of social work and her experience in the profession. To my delight, she was more than happy to meet with me and share her knowledge and insight and I learnt a lot about what it might be like to pursue a career in social work. At the end of our meeting, I mentioned SHARE and asked if she, or any of her colleagues, would be able to provide us with some feedback and hopefully streamline appropriate referrals to our support group. I was quite surprised when, a couple weeks later, she emailed me with the invitation to present at their weekly team meeting. Natasha and I were buzzing with excitement, and on top of that Natasha was also still buzzing with her Jack Summit after-effect, so we were in overdrive. Our presentation can be found here: SHARE Presentation.

We gave an overview of how SHARE came to be, our vision, an outline of what a SHARE meeting is like, guidelines, facilitator qualifications, and our long term goals as an organization spanning primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. I was pleasantly surprised with how well-received we were; to be honest, I was expecting many challenging questions, and maybe even some resistance. Instead, the team was supportive of us. They asked us many inquisitive questions, such as what we would do in the case that someone does become triggered in group, clarification on our target population, and curiosity towards why we follow a harm-reduction model versus an abstinence model. We explained that we understand everyone has different goals in recovery, and respect that people might have different goals at various stages, therefore we follow a harm-reduction model. It is not uncommon for someone to not be ready to completely give up their coping method that they’ve known to work, and with harm-reduction, we can help them limit damage and increase safety while they learn alternatives and more productive skills. It is simply like any habit, it is unrealistic to go cold-turkey, so reducing harm is important as part of the tapering process towards a person’s goal in recovery, whether that be abstinence or not.

Some great recommendations given to us. Namely, to connect with the Vancouver School Board with regards to our primary prevention of self-care education and self-harm prevention, collecting information from group attendees throughout the year to evaluate effectiveness of our program, and look further into a risk assessment model for peers. Something that they also mentioned was that there are often barriers to accessing mainstream support, and that our group could help fill that gap for peoples attempting to navigate through those barriers. I thought this was a great point to keep in mind, that not everyone wants to seek professional help, and that the space we provide may serve as the support these people are looking for- non-judgemental, peer-led, harm-reduction based, recovery oriented and safe.

Today we are meeting once more with Counselling Services to clarify any outstanding questions and concerns, streamlining referrals between us.  We hope to establish a good working relationship with each other, and this way we can try to reach out to as many people as possible. In the year to come, we also anticipate connecting with many more campus partners, collaborating with the UBC Mental Health Network, where we can come together with other health and wellness groups and resources on campus, work together to create a healthy, self-caring community environment.

UBC MHN

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