Meet Kristy Rees
Kristy Rees is the Rural Mental Health Project Community Animator for Berwyn, Alberta and is also the Community Services Director for Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).
Breaking Down the Stigma on Mental Health
After watching several family members go through their own mental health struggles throughout her life, Kristy became inspired to become involved in promoting mental health and wellness in her community.
Having been impacted by family struggling with mental health, it was huge for Kristy to be able to take a step in the direction of being able to offer support to others who are struggling.
After completing her Animator training, Kristy went back to her community to try and figure out what the needs were for mental wellness services. She quickly found that many people simply didn’t know where to start when it came to accessing support in Berwyn.
“Right now my biggest focus is trying to build up those resources that the community needs and opening the door for that access. I want to make the process simple and collaborative if someone is looking for help,” says Kristy.
Kristy plans to pull together a bank of resources and service providers in the region that will allow residents to easily find out what is available when they or a loved one are struggling.
Helping Youth in the Community
Kristy also has a passion for helping at risk youth and loves to see the impact she can have on young people who are struggling. In addition, she also volunteers with Big Sisters, Big Brothers and she and her wife have recently become foster parents and are now navigating the mental health system trying to find supports for youth.
“I recently wrapped up a role at a centre for at risk youth and I was really proud of the relationships I was able to build with each of the kids I worked with. It really inspired me to want to continue helping the young people in the community and ultimately what led to me wanting to become a foster parent,“ says Kristy.
Kristy was also part of an initiative to create “Comfort Boxes” that are full of self-care items as well as mental health resources for anyone in the community who is really struggling, especially throughout the pandemic. She also has plans to begin setting up peer support groups that will involve local partnerships and neighbouring communities to help bring together more mental wellness resources.
“I’ve met some amazing people through my Animator training and we are actively working to build community connection and brainstorm some really great ideas on how we can work together,” says Kristy.
Breaking Down Stigma
Kristy is passionate about breaking down the stigma around mental health conversations in her community. While she is driven to make a difference, she knows it can be hard to create engagement around a subject that some people may still not feel comfortable talking about. While she has faced some barriers, Kristy continues to bring education, resources, workshops and community conversation opportunities to Berwyn to help change those perceptions.