Seven part series creates pathways for those challenged by mental health and addiction
A new workshop series is expanding educational opportunities for those affected by mental health and addiction issues.
The free, seven-part series is the result of a collaboration between the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) – Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital – and Niagara College.
Called, ‘ExperieNCe: Working in Groups,’ the workshops are available through the CAMH Recovery College, which is focused on supporting people through education and creating pathways for opportunities they may not have had. The series is open to participants who self-identify as having lived experience with mental health, addiction and/or substance abuse challenges.
Participants have the opportunity to engage in college-level learning in a safe environment, and may earn a credit towards Niagara College’s Child and Youth Care (CYC) or Educational Assistant – Special Needs Support (EA-SNS) programs.
The online workshops focus on building skills in group-work, communication and collaboration, roles and relationships, decision-making, and conflict management – which may be applied to enhance their personal or professional lives.
“It was a natural fit to join forces with Niagara College. Through this partnership we can offer a low-barrier opportunity for people to explore college level learning,” said Dr. Sanjeev Sockalingam, CAMH’s vice-president of Education. “We are very excited to have this opportunity to partner with Niagara College and expand opportunities and offerings to our student base.”
“Here at Niagara College we know education can transform lives, and in collaboration with CAMH, we are proud to present these ExperieNCe workshops which help do just that,” said Carol Phillips, NC’s associate dean, School of Community Services. “In addition to helping break down the barriers to education for many who face addiction or mental health challenges, we are excited to work with CAMH to offer support for those who wish to transition into college life.”
The workshops were spearheaded by CYC professor Jessica Morris who liaised with representatives from CAMH to co-create, develop, design and produce the series alongside administrators and faculty members from the College’s School of Community Services. They began working on the project last year, incorporating learning outcomes from selected CYC and EA-SNS courses into the workshops.
“Working with CAMH was an incredible experience. They have the same trailblazing mindset that we foster at Niagara College and I am so proud to see our NC logo and the CAMH logo side by side on this project,” said Morris. “These workshops are poised to benefit those experiencing mental health and addiction challenges who may prefer a safe and less formal environment. It presents a perfect opportunity for them to build their self esteem and dip their toes into a college-level learning experience in a course that has many built-in, reflective tools to support them on their journey.”
EA-SNS professor Ann Marie Raos noted that it was an honour to contribute to the project.
“This initiative with CAMH will definitely expose potential students to a different professional field that they may not have thought of before. Through EA-SNS, there is such a rewarding feeling of being able to support individuals with disabilities in our communities,” said Raos. “What an amazing opportunity to speak to our program which is unique in that it prepares students for not only the educational field but agency support as well.”
A non-clinical program, the ExperieNCe workshop series operates on self-referrals; a diagnosis is not required.
Two styles of workshops are available. A self-directed online option through the Moodle platform gives participants an opportunity to earn a NC credit. Participants must complete five workshops before selecting their final workshop in either CYC or EA-SNS. Synchronous live workshops are also available, which are currently being held virtually due to the pandemic but do not give the option of earning a NC credit.
In addition to collaborating on creating the new series, NC is also co-facilitating the workshops and providing ongoing support to students in the course who are identified as motivated and ready to enter the labour market.
Details are available through CAMH Recovery College.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine science, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
School of Community Services faculty members Jessica Morris (left) and Ann Marie Raos (right) stand with associate dean Carol Phillips (middle) in front of Niagara College’s Applied Health Institute at the Welland Campus. All three worked on the CAMH Recovery College’s recently launched ExperieNCe: Working in Groups workshops.