June 15th, 2024

Our Collective Journey receives $100K grant to help support mental health issues

By Medicine Hat News on March 2, 2021.

Our Collective Journey is a local organization using the power of shared experience to reach out to anyone with an addiction or mental health struggle. They have received a provincial government grant of $100,000 for their project. In the photo from left are Rick Armstrong, Ryan Oscar and Damyan Davis.--NEWS PHOTO

A local organization providing a fresh approach to reaching those with addiction and mental health issues has been given a $100,000 provincial grant.

Our Collective Journey emerged after three friends met to discuss the high number of suicides in the community that were evident by the end of summer last year. They had personal experience of having overcome addiction and mental health issues and are successfully living in recovery.

Rick Armstrong, executive director of OCJ, says there was a feeling that nobody wanted to talk about substances abuse or addiction as a contributing factor to suicide.

Ryan Oscar, outreach program director, and Damyan Davis, community relations director, sat with Armstrong over coffee for about three hours. They all had personal experience that helped them understand in a unique way how to reach out to others in a rough place or at the point of considering taking their own life.

“There are fleeting moments when someone is willing to reach out and you may never come back or not survive to come back,” said Armstrong.

Oscar had a connection with someone who helped them produce a podcast and there was a tremendous response to it.

A community round table discussion last October indicated they were on the right track.

OCJ recognized that there are many people who for a number of reasons will not walk through the doors of a professional agency and ask for help. There are many in the community functioning at a high level even though they may be struggling with an addiction.

Reaching out to Armstrong, Oscar or Davis means speaking to someone who has been there before and understands what they are feeling.

The idea is to build a relationship, meet the person – if they are comfortable with that, and build connections to other programs or on a one-on-one level.

Davis says highly credible research is now showing that shared experience is very powerful.

OCJ is for men and women “everybody” in “distress” – they do not need to feel alone.

“We prove it with each interaction by meeting people where they are at (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually): then continue towards the overarching end goal of empowering peers as they explore possibilities and find their path towards a healthier and happier outcome.”

OCJ collaborates with community professionals to expedite referrals when someone is ready to take the next step in their journey.

They would like to see the whole community recognize the needs of people in the community and lift the stigma in the process. This will help more people feel safe in reaching out for help.

The website for OCJ includes personal stories from a variety of people with shared experiences. Reading those could help someone in need recognize themselves or identify with someone and take that first step in asking for help.

Their offices will be located in the Medicine Hat Community Food and Wellness Hub in what used to be the fire hall on Maple Avenue, which is currently being renovated.

https://www.ourcollectivejourney.ca/about

Email them: help@ourcollectivejourney.ca

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or requires mental health support, help is available: Call 911 in an emergency.

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