It’s that time of year again…time to have a huge Zumba party, and give back to our community! Every December, to close out a year of fitness and community, we throw a big Zumba party to raise funds for a local Winnipeg organization. In the past, we’ve supported organizations such as Laurel Centre, Villa Rosa, Options Pathways, and The North Point Douglas Women’s Centre. This year, we are very happy to announce that we will be supporting Peer Connections Manitoba.
Peer Connections Manitoba, or PCM, is a peer support-focused organization that provides quality mental health and substance abuse education, as well as support on an individual or family basis. The organization is peer-led, which means everyone on the team at PCM has personal or family lived experience in mental health and substance abuse. Quite simply put, they are people helping people. Though we couldn’t possibly encapsulate everything they do in one article, we’d like to highlight a few of the ways that PCM serves their community to show you why we’ve chosen them this year.
Individual Peer Support
PCM offers peer support to anyone in Manitoba who has lived experience of mental health and wellness challenges. Their Peer Support Workers go through extensive training before becoming part of the team.
One of the ways they offer support is through individual peer support sessions. Here, people can meet with a Peer Support Worker one-on-one and discuss their mental health and wellness challenges. Because PCM is a peer-led organization, individuals who come to use their services are able to speak with someone who has experienced these challenges themselves, in one way or another. Their individual support option is available both online and in-person. They allow individuals to register ahead of time to access the service, but they also provide a drop-in option on a first-come, first-served basis on Monday afternoons. The online peer support option is a group setting for individuals to connect with each other in a safe space with a Peer Support Worker present.
Family Peer Support
Mental health and wellness challenges impact not only the individual experiencing it, but also the family and friends around them. PCM offers support for these families/groups or individuals navigating the challenges that come with living with or supporting someone living with mental illness.
The Peer Support Workers at PCM are there to help, no matter what the situation. They offer one-on-one peer support similar to that of individual peer support, where families or individuals can receive help in learning how to take care of or be there for their loved ones. For those who are looking for the sense of community to know they are not alone in their challenging situation, PCM also hosts a Friends and Family Group, where individuals or families can meet and share their journeys of caring for loved ones.
PCM also run groups and longer workshops to offer additional support. For example, their “Eight Stages of Healing” program is a 10-week peer-led support group that focuses on the unique journeys that families, friends and caregivers of those living with mental health challenges may face. PCM is also currently offering a series of workshops in partner with Robyn Priest LIVE YOUR TRUTH, a mental health and peer support education and strategy firm. Through this partnership, they are able to provide workshops such as “Getting Rid of the ‘Shoulds’”, and “The Advocacy Role of a Family Member”. By offering more than individual or group support, PCM is creating a space where people can both feel supported and expand their understanding of the challenges that come with mental illness.
Mental Health Education
Besides support services, PCM also provides mental health education courses. Education around mental health is incredibly important. When we educate ourselves, we can help to end the stigma, be more aware of the struggles of those around us, or perhaps even struggles we have ourselves. The field is vast, and no single organization can cover every topic, but PCM does their part to make some of this important information available. They offer workshops such as “Hearing Voices That Are Distressing”, a simulated workshop to learn about the lived experience of someone who hears voices. There is also the “Family Recovery Journey”, a 5-week national education program that is designed to help family members, caregivers and friends of individuals living with mental health challenges. PCM is also bringing in a 7-week program geared towards children and young teens called “Name That Feeling” to offer support to a younger audience who may also be affected by a family member living with mental illness.
Peer Connections Manitoba offers all of these services at no cost to anyone who needs them. Received donations go towards helping to fund research and programs to continue to serve their community better. This year, especially after Covid, they are experiencing a higher demand for their services. Their current goal is to accommodate their Peer Support Outreach program, to be able to employ more Peer Support Workers and therefore offer their services at a faster rate. We are so glad to be able to contribute in some small way towards the incredible work this organization does. Thank you PCM for giving us a place to continue to learn, grow and support one another in our unique walks of life.