LOLA profile - Learning Champion
This years Life of Learning Award (LOLA) in the Learning Champion category went to Debbie Wiebe.
Debbie Wiebe & Kathy Talon
Debbie Wiebe is a champion of mental health consumers. Specifically, she’s a national leader in peer support and learning for individuals with mental health issues.
During her twenty years at the Canadian Mental Health Association, Debbie has been instrumental in creating and leading Calgary’s Peer Options/Art of Friendship program. This innovative peer-mentoring program teaches foundational thinking and communication skills that help participants make social connections. The model allows participants to transition over time from entry-level learners to peer facilitators and on to reintegration into community.
Recently, Debbie adapted the Art of Friendship peer mentor model to address the social needs of downtown residents displaced by the 2013 flood. Another adaptation serves individuals isolated in long-term care facilities. Yet a third adaptation is aimed at helping mental health clients focus more deeply on recovery and the actions that can lead them there.
Debbie works at many levels to pave the way for learners with mental health issues. She’s in the background renewing the peer mentor model, securing funds, leading and training staff, and managing facility use. She has also served on the national Canadian Mental Health Commission and subsequently as a founding member of the Peer Support Accreditation and Certification Canada committee.
In the words of a colleague, “Debbie has a unique vision. Fundamentally, she is passionate about seeing someone else find the dignity to become an encourager.” Debbie helps those who are well along in recovery find ways to encourage others who may be at the beginning of their journey.
Mental illness is filled with issues of stigma, marginalizing and isolating individuals. Debbie stands up to that stigma, helping mental health clients learn from each other and become friends.