CMHA Swan Valley Branch is pleased to announce the hiring of James Wigley as the new Executive Director. James takes over leadership from outgoing Director, Marvin Fried, who is retiring after 14 years of service with CMHA. This past week, CMHA Self Help Coordinator, Rod Seib, sat down with James for an interview:
RS – So, how do you feel about taking on the role of Executive Director for the Swan Valley Branch of CMHA?
JW – I feel confident in my abilities with taking on the role of Executive Director for the Swan Valley Branch of CMHA. Although a little nervous regarding some aspects, I am excited to be a part of such an amazing organization that spans the entire country as well as to be a part of a great team of dedicated and hard-working individuals.
RS – What previous work and life experience do you bring to this role that you feel will be an asset?
JW – I bring with me 6 years of experience in the Health Care field in the capacity of Community Health Facilitator with Prairie Mountain Health, which included being the Mental Health Promotion Lead for the Parkland Area regarding the Healthy Together Now program as well as 2 years experience as a Peer Outreach Worker with Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba. I have also been involved with the CMHA Swan Valley Branch Board of Directors for the past 3 years, which has allowed me to build a good relationship with the organization and its staff. Mental Health and addictions have always been a passion of mine, so being able to work within those fields has always been important to me.
RS – What will be your priorities in your first year of leadership?
JW – My priorities for the first year are to implement a strategic plan for our organization and work with staff regarding succession planning that fits within that. I would also like to have some training offered to the board and continued education opportunities for the staff. Finally, I would like to see some new programs implemented within the areas we serve. This is an ambitious plan for the first year and it may not all get done within the first 12 months…but it will get done and I feel it is important that it does.
RS – What are some of the most critical needs you feel CMHA can or should be addressing as it serves the Parkland area?
JW – Mental Health Promotion is important. As an organization we need to continue to serve our communities through advocating for our clients, programming for community, and spreading awareness around topics that aren’t easily discussed. Stigma is very real in today’s world. I feel stigma is lessening but it takes time and effort. It’s important that we at CMHA Swan Valley Branch continue to partner with other like-minded organizations to provide a positive impact to our communities.
RS – In your experience, what is one of the greatest mental health challenges for people in our community?
JW – One of the greatest challenges, in my experience, for those living with mental health distress/challenges is the lack of support services in a rural setting: be that programming, support groups, or others associated with the Social Determinants of Health. A positive to this is that the staff at CMHA Swan Valley Branch work hard to lessen these challenges and gaps. At CMHA Swan Valley Branch we have our Self-Help programming which offers individual Self-Help sessions. We offer some direct programming such as Live Life To The Full as well as Speak UP and we will be implementing more programs in the future. We also work closely with the Community Mental Health team within Prairie Mountain Health to refer people to their services that require professional counselling. Plus, we provide low income, transitional, and emergency housing in both Swan River and Dauphin through our four ECHO Housing Complexes to those living with mental health challenges.
RS – How do you see CMHA Swan Valley Branch growing over the next 5 years?
JW – As I stated previously, my first step as Executive Director for CMHA Swan Valley Branch is to implement a Strategic Plan. Once this plan is in place and succession planning with all staff has happened, we can then focus on how we will grow CMHA Swan Valley Branch as a team regarding our Strategic Plan and vision/mission. I feel this is a team effort and a community effort. More programming will be implemented, and existing ECHO Housing will continue to be supported through our organization.
RS – What are you most excited about as you begin your role?
JW – I am most excited for the opportunity to have a positive influence on support that residents in the Dauphin, Swan River, and The Pas area access through CMHA Swan Valley Branch. Mental Health is a passion of mine and I believe strongly in the work that an organization such as CMHA can do and I take great pride that I am able to be a part of that.
RS – What opportunities do you feel this new role will open for you personally and/or professionally?
JW – I feel this position will allow me to network and meet many different people and get connected with many different organizations across the province and beyond. It is my hope that while in this position, new partnerships will be formed, and existing ones strengthened.
RS – How do you personally practice self-care in keeping a balance between your work life and leisure time, tending to your own mental health?
JW – One of the things I do daily is what I like to call a “self-check.” This is where I take a step back and take a few seconds to see how the day is going. I ask myself, “Is there anything I should be working on internally or is there anything bothering me?” I find this is something that keeps me clear and level-headed. Deep breathing and stretching are also something I do throughout the day to help keep me alert and on track.
RS – What kind of music do you most enjoy listening to? Do you have a favourite band/artist?
JW – My favourite genre of music to listen to is Classic Rock (be it 70’s or 80’s). I also enjoy some Country and Pop. My favourite band is Journey.
RS – What’s a little-known fact about yourself you’d be comfortable sharing?
JW – One of my dream vacations is for my wife and I to visit Disney World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida. We are both Disney fans (her more than I) and I am a very big Harry Potter fan!