Red Roof Retreat is committed to expanding to support mental health.
“My board is all over it,” says Steffanie Bjorgan, the respite centre’s executive director. “Mental wellness for youth is a cornerstone, but this is about more than youth. We didn’t want to build a relationship with people and then at 24 we tell them you gotta go — that’s not great for mental health.”
Two basement rooms at RRR’s Concession 6 property have been renovated and custom-built to suit a variety of activities for the new Growing Wellness program — paid for in part by a generous donation from the Mavridis family, owners of Corks and Orzo restaurants.
One room is private and cozy, set up for one-on-one or small-group counselling and therapy. The goal is to find a few different counsellors with unique skill sets to serve the community, who will rent the space for a day or two a week, for example. “We’re meeting with people and looking for a good fit,” says Bjorgan.
The main room is bright and neutral, ready to hold a long table and a dozen chairs for a vision board workshop, or a dozen yoga mats, or cushions or easels — anything required to offer workshops, classes and activities that might help contribute to good mental health.
“The goal for year one is one event or activity per month,” says Bjorgan. The series will launch on Feb. 4.
The first vision board workshop will be led by Michelle Madden, a social worker and clinical therapist.
“This time of year people are looking forward, wondering what their year will look like,” Karen Post, co-ordinator of the Growing Wellness initiative, says. “This is a way to open it up and get people thinking, a simple activity, magazines, markers — anything you connect with.”
Madden, who works with youth in her practices in St. Catharines and Fonthill, describes vision boards as a way to help people focus on their goals. “We’ll look at a variety of areas: relationships, health — mental, physical, physical, emotional, spiritual — jobs, school,” she says. “The creativity is a pretty powerful way to help them focus on the kind of goals they want to set for themselves.” She says the boards are typically kept in a prominent location, “in their room, for example, to remind them on a daily basis what they’re hoping to achieve.”
On Feb. 20, adults will have the opportunity to create their own vision boards. Each workshop costs only $5 to participate. A youth introduction to yoga class with Meredith Lichte on Feb. 23 and a youth introduction to music therapy class led by Aksana Kavaliova-Moussi on March 25 will also cost only $5.
“A lot of people are donating their time and efforts,” says Post, which is how they can keep costs low for now.
Class sizes are maximum 12 people, and the youth age limits are 15 to 24 years.
Bjorgan also plans to run larger-format programs in the spring and fall. “I’m talking to healers, therapists, practitioners to build something,” she says. She expects to send out a needs assessment to the community “sooner rather than later,” to find out what people want to see.
Part of the idea of the initiative is to bring people together in a safe space to allow them to share and process their thoughts.
Post sums it up simply: “Everybody just talk. It sounds so simple but, if everyone took a dark moment and shared it, we could help each other find ways to help manage what we’re going through.”
For more information or to book a spot in upcoming classes or workshops, email firstname.lastname@example.org.