Meet Coralee McIntosh
Coralee McIntosh is a Rural Mental Health Animator residing in Chestermere, Alberta, located just east of Calgary. Coralee's journey as an Animator commenced shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Coralee has lived in Chestermere for four years, her association with the town traces back to 2011, when she began her professional journey there. She sought a position in a smaller community, drawing upon her appreciation for the cozy small-town environment reminiscent of her upbringing in a small southwestern Ontario town. Over the years, Coralee has built strong connections and cherished relationships within the community, further solidifying Chestermere as her home.
Community Development Through a Mental Health Lens
Having dedicated a significant portion of her professional life to community development work over the past decade, Coralee recognized the opportunity to combine her skills in community development with a mental health focus. This interest led her to the Rural Mental Health Network and training as a Community Animator. This avenue allowed her to practice her expertise through the lens of mental health. As a Community Animator, Coralee actively participates in various community projects, ensuring that the community's mental health perspective remains a guiding force in all endeavours.
Chestermere's Mental Health Survey Initiative
Chestermere's Rural Mental Health grant was designed as a two-phase initiative, with the first year focused on a survey project prompted by a tragic loss within the community. The aim of the survey was to understand youth safety comprehensively, encompassing emotional, social, and mental well-being, in addition to physical safety. Through surveys administered to nearly 1,700 students in grades five to twelve and adults, valuable insights were gathered. However, the survey generated additional questions, leading to the second phase, the Steps Towards Resilience Project.
Chestermere's Focus Group Initiative
In the second phase, the Rural Mental Health coalition delved deeper into the inquiries that arose from the survey. By conducting a series of focus groups with youth and adults in the community, the coalition team sought a more nuanced understanding of mental safety, support-seeking behaviours, and awareness of available resources. The focus groups have proven instrumental in uncovering critical information enabling the team to identify community trigger points, address them effectively, and establish support systems.
Building on the positive relationship established during the previous phase of the initiative, the coalition team reached out to Rockyview schools and Calgary Catholic, which encompassed the Catholic schools in their community. By actively listening and following up on the information gathered, the resulting recommendations are grounded in the community's needs and are not merely speculative or haphazard. This dedication sets this project apart from quick surveys that often yield limited results, as the coalition team actively involves the community and demonstrates a genuine commitment to utilizing the gathered information for positive change.
The coalition team has also leveraged their expertise to present the survey results in an accessible and relatable manner within their community. Coralee and the team have developed a video presentation summarizing the survey findings. This approach allows for the information to be presented in an accessible way to various partners, including municipal governments, school boards, service clubs, and other coalitions within the community.
Coralee was inspired to witness the power of creating a safe and comfortable environment for individuals to share their stories. By providing space for open and honest conversations, the team has seen firsthand how people are willing to share when given the opportunity. The positive response from youth, in particular, who noticed the genuine interest and attention of the adults during focus groups, has been rewarding, reaffirming the team's commitment to supporting and uplifting the community.
A Network of Support
Coralee acknowledges that the work of Community Animators can, at times, feel overwhelming and complicated. She emphasizes the strength of the Rural Mental Health Network: "There is a strong group of animators with you across your region and the province. It's easy to think, 'Oh, I don't know if this is making a difference.' Remember, you have a network of animators with you. Always know you can reach out to the Network for ideas or encouragement. We are here to support each other."