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Focus on Families

March 18, 2013

By Jessica Dodge, Loyalist College graduate

I graduated from the Community and Justice Services Worker program at Loyalist College in 2011. Now, I work for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Leeds and Grenville where I am the branch service and support co-ordinator, and the community justice worker for the direct accountability program. I also provide public education and training support.

The CMHA is dedicated to the promotion of the mental health of all people, and to ensuring the provision of the best possible services for people with mental health problems. Since beginning employment with CMHA Leeds and Grenville, I have been trained in Mental Health First Aid for Adults Who Interact with Youth and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. Previously, I was trained in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention through my program at Loyalist College and first aid/CPR.

I first became interested in mental health during my second-year Applied Psychology class at Loyalist, which is facilitated by professors who have background and personal knowledge of the topics of discussion. Since then, I have been able to relate and reflect back to my college education both personally and professionally.

My job is very diverse, and requires me to work within all of the different programs CMHA Leeds and Grenville offers, such as Adult and Youth Mental Health Court Diversion. Our branch is small, which allows us to work closely and offer a variety of input to each and every situation. Being able to work within all the different programs is one of my favourite parts of the job.

According to CMHA, 20 percent of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague. As such, CMHA Leeds and Grenville is currently focusing on families. Families are important. Understandably, some families are hesitant to share the trials they go through. Sometimes it is because someone in their family is suffering from a severe mental illness.

Our society is not as comfortable talking about mental illness; the stigma around mental illness often keeps people from sharing struggles they may be having. As a result, families are often isolated in their situation. In order to offer support to these families, we are planning a conference on April 13 at the Royal Brock Hotel & Conference Centre in Brockville. It will be an all-day event with keynote speakers and workshops on topics of interest to family members of people with mental illness. There is no cost for the event but registration is necessary. The event will be hosted by CMHA of Leeds and Grenville in conjunction with agencies from Ottawa, Lanark, Lennox & Addington, Frontenac, Prince Edward County and several affiliated community partners.

If you are supporting or caring for someone who is diagnosed with a mental disorder, this conference is for you. Please encourage others who may need this support to call today and register. For more information or to register call Jessica Dodge at 613-345-0950 Ext.4.

If you are interested in working in the industry, please contact Professor Phil Howlett at or 613-969-1913 ext. 2518 for more information on the two-year Community and Justice Services Worker Ontario College Diploma program at Loyalist College. There is such a high need for community and justice services professionals like me that many students receive job offers before they graduate.

Loyalist Community and Justice Services Worker graduate Jessica Dodge is a branch service & support co-ordinator with the Canadian Mental Health Association of Leeds & Grenville.