The first graduating class of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ Peer Support Training Program was honoured at a ceremony on June 10.

Seventeen members of the public from across Saskatchewan have been receiving training through Mental Health and Addiction Services since January 2015 to provide peer support. “Peer support is a relationship between people who have life experience in common,” explained Karyn Kawula, Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services for Saskatoon Health Region. “In the mental health field, this experience might be related to their own mental health or that of a loved one. Research shows that in recovery, peer support is considered integral to mental health and addiction service delivery.”

Peer support programs in other parts of Canada have proven to be successful. This   first training program initiated in Saskatchewan began in January of 2015 and consisted of 55 hours of classroom work and a 40-hour practicum. Thirteen people from Saskatoon have now completed the training, along with two from Regina and two from Swift Current.

“It took a lot of dedication, passion and perseverance for them to get through this program,” said Kawula. “I’m impressed with all of them.”

The graduation ceremony was exciting for the grads and Tracey Mitchell, who facilitated part of their training.

“They are such a great bunch of people. I think they are going to do such amazing work,” Mitchell said.

“We are now more than ever not only capable of being a compassionate support to our designated client, but also to our friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, even strangers, and ourselves,” said Mandy Chen, who spoke on behalf of the graduates at the ceremony. “We are here to appreciate, to love and trust, to show hope and companionship, through mutual support we understand the world a little better, and we hope the torch can go around the room until there is no dark spot being left behind.”

The 13 Peer Support Workers from Saskatoon are now ready to provide peer support services and Wellness Recovery Action Planning group facilitation through service contracts with Saskatoon Health Region’s Mental Health and Addictions Services.  They will work individually with people, and with some of the Mental Health programs and groups.

The next step is for these trainees to apply for certification from Peer Support Accreditation Canada. Work is underway in Saskatoon Health Region to formally introduce peer support services into Mental Health and Addiction Services programs. Saskatoon Health Region will be applying for formal certification through Peer Support Accreditation Canada, and Mental Health and Addictions Services has received a Royal University Hospital Foundation endowment grant to assist with that process.

A group of Peer Support workers

The first class of Peer Support workers were trained over the winter and graduated from the program last week.