Priscilla Cherry is one of 16 peer support workers who provide counselling at Recovery Centre Calgary, a unique new mental health centre that opened Tuesday in downtown Calgary. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

On Tuesday, the Calgary chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) launched Alberta’s first “recovery college.”

It’s located at the association’s brand new centre at the corner of 10th Street and Seventh Avenue S.W., right on the CTrain line.

The recovery centre and recovery college offer more than 40 wellness courses developed and taught by 16 support staff who have lived through their own mental health or addiction challenges. Support staff also receive 120 hours of training, 70 hours of in-class work and a 50-hour internship, both in the organization and within the community.

Building a national network

The recovery centre is the first of its kind in Alberta. There are three others across Canada, with plans to open additional centres in Edmonton and Fort McMurray.

All of it is provided free of charge to the public, said CMHA executive director of the Calgary region Laureen MacNeil.

One of the first challenges to providing mental health services is to create ways for people to easily access them, MacNeil said, which played a role in the decision to locate the recovery centre in a storefront location near the CTrain.

“We know many people find it challenging to start that first conversation,” MacNeil said in an interview on The Homestretch.

Power of peer counselling

The recovery centre focuses on creating an environment where individuals seeking counselling connect with counselors who may have been through something similar to what they’re experiencing.

“There’s great evidence around peer support,” MacNeil said.

“The ability to gain…

Mayra Rodriguez
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Mayra Rodriguez

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