Connections Place in Victoria is helping people with mental health challenges get back on their feet and feel less alone.
The community is a welcoming and safe sanctuary where people with mental health challenges can gain confidence and feel valued.
“It’s tremendously important,” says Connections Place executive director Mike Tibbles. “It gives people hope and purpose and helps people with their recovery.”
For Shauna Kehler, who struggles with psychosis, chronic depression and anxiety, it’s been life-changing.
“Instead of being stuck home, cooped up in a little ball, I’m here getting out in the community, meeting people, and I just find it’s helped me so much,” Kehler says.
Sage Galatyne, who’s been coming for less than a year, runs the queer education group and can’t say enough about the difference Connections Place has made.
“If I hadn’t been coming here, I would have been in and out of PES, the psychiatric emergency at Royal Jubilee, a lot,” Galatyne says.
“My self-worth would be down the toilet, but coming in here I can help people as much as I can and feel really good about the difference I can make in my community.”
New skills can be learned and there’s a transitional employment program to get people back on their feet, but it’s really about community building and giving people who are often isolated a sense of belonging.
“You feel like you’re not being judged and it’s just an overwhelming sense of community here and I really love it,” Kehler says. “I don’t know what I’d do without Connections Place.”
Tibbles knows first-hand how transformative the program can be. Long before he took over as executive director, he was a member at the Richmond location.
“I had just come out of the hospital,” Tibbles explains. “I have a condition called schizoaffective disorder and I was dealing with some real challenges. I was suicidal and I needed someplace to go.”
Connections Place had to move to a temporary location at Knox Presbyterian Church in January and staff are now looking for a new, permanent home so they can continue making a big difference in people’s lives.
“I have hope, a sense of purpose, I meet friends, I feel like I accomplish something, to help with the work-ordered day,” Kehler says. “I just feel like I’m a better person in general coming here.”
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