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Meet Shirley

Mental Health Educator, Community Education and Training 

Shirley’s advice/inspiration for others

  • “If we don’t take care of our mental health now, we will be FORCED to take care of it later.”
  • “Mental illness represents 70% of disability costs and 25% of this could be avoided by employers taking action.”

Shirley’s favourite accomplishment at CMHA 

It’s hard to pick just one!

Shirley, mental health educator

I was very proud of how the Charles Darrow Housing Co-Op in Aurora came together to win awards both from the United Way of York Region and the Co-Op Association of Canada. My favourite moments include seeing the “ah ha” moments in the youth I have worked with in schools both with our Youth Wellness and Choices programs. I am very proud to represent CMHA-YRSS to employers that aren’t sure how to encourage mental wellness for their staff but are eager to learn. The first step is always about reducing stigma and it is truly an accomplishment when employers recognize their own personal stigmas and how it affects their employees.

My top goal when joining CMHA was to reduce the stigma around mental illness. I am lucky to be able to do this every single day!

Why Shirley chose to work at CMHA 

I came to CMHA because I had spent 10 years as an Executive Director at a Youth Agency shuffling papers, filling out successful funding applications, and leading fundraising efforts for agency survival. I wanted to be back on the frontline so I applied for the Mental Health Educator position on CMHA’s Youth Wellness team. I didn’t get the job at first but things work out as they should, when they should. Two years later, after working on an award-winning community development project in Aurora, I was offered the Mental Health Educator position. From there I went on to work as a program coordinator for our Choices program, a coordinator for our Family Education Group, and later, along with Carol L., started CMHA’s Community Education and Training Program.

We quickly learned of the thirst for knowledge around mental wellness. We started developing our own programs, and in addition to Mental Health First Aid and ASIST, we now offer nearly 20 different workshops for employers and agencies across York Region and South Simcoe. Community Education and Training has grown immensely and it is rewarding to see the impact we bring to CMHA-YRSS.

What isn’t to like about working at CMHA?! The people are like family and have supported me through many difficult times in my life. I love that important changes are communicated with staff before final decisions are made. Employees are empowered to take risks, offer suggestions and are heard!

How our Community Education and Training Program is making a difference in our community

Community Education and Training gets our community talking about mental illness and wellness. From workshops like Mental Illness and Communication, employers learn how to respond respectfully to mental health problems. We teach people to be resilient during tough times. We offer Lunch & Learns, Professional Development, Cultural Competency and provide education about Teens & Mental Health all the way to Seniors & Depression and everything in between.

In addition to the mandatory training for CMHA staff which includes, ASIST Suicide Intervention, Mental Health First Aid and safeTALK we offer these programs to individuals, workplaces and the community. All of this results in healthier workplaces, a drop in the length and number of mental illness disability claims, and more people feeling comfortable talking about and reaching out for help.

Learn more about our Community Education and Training Program
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