Daniel Smith (left) was once a client of the Barrett Centre for Crisis Support. Now he works there. Peter Kibor (right), director of Barrett Centre, says of Daniel’s contributions: “There is something magical about relating to someone from a place of experience.”

From self-harm to self-acceptance
One person’s journey of healing leads to the Barrett Centre


May 11, 2009, is a date that Daniel Smith will never forget. Clutching a slip of paper containing an address, he walked up and down Emerald Street South six times before finding the courage to walk through the front door of the Barrett Centre for Crisis Support.

This year, the Barrett Centre celebrates a decade of support to the community. It is a lifeline for people like Daniel, who experience a mental health crisis but don’t require a hospital stay. The Barret Centre provides a range of services including a 24-hour crisis line, face-to-face counselling, support groups and 10 crisis beds, in a home-like setting.

Since high school, Daniel had struggled with thoughts that compelled him to injure himself. For many years, he was able to hide his self-harming behaviour from friends and family. He married a woman he affectionately calls “his rock” and had a successful career in sales. But in his late 30s, he spiralled out of control and was admitted to hospital.

Over the next several years, Daniel was in and out of hospital without any clear answers or insights into his condition. When he found the Barrett Centre, he was at his breaking point.

“Something had to change,” he says. “I needed help and this program was the last chance to try to hold my rapidly changing life together.”

Daniel was immediately struck by the centre’s un-institutional look and feel. “This place looked so different from what you would expect – there were no white coats, no stethoscopes. And when I first came in, there was a warm greeting and I felt a sense of being welcomed with no judgment,” he says.

That lack of judgment was crucial because, as Daniel explains, the root of self-harm is a lack of self-acceptance and self-esteem. “Those of us who live with thoughts of self-harm feel it’s what we deserve,” he says.

After meeting with Peter Kibor, director of the Barrett Centre, Daniel was referred to Beyond Self-Harm, a 12-week group program. With the support and compassion of the facilitators and participants, he began to feel better. It was slow process – he kept going back to the group until he “finally got the program.”

Peter was so impressed by Daniel’s progress that he was invited to become a volunteer peer support worker for the Self-Harm Reduction Program. With a renewed sense of hope, he started planning for a career in mental health.

Daniel completed several courses in harm reduction and psychiatric rehabilitation and obtained his professional credential as a peer support worker. In July 2011, he was hired by Good Shepherd as a part-time peer support worker to co-facilitate Beyond Self- Harm and provide support to people participating in the group. He also filled in occasionally at the Crisis Bed Program. In May 2016, Daniel was hired as a full-time peer support worker at the Crisis Bed Program.

Peter feels privileged to have Daniel as part of their team. “There is something magical about relating to someone from a place of experience,” says Peter. “He brings a perspective that none of us can bring and we value his input during our clinical case review sessions.”

Now that Daniel’s journey of healing and self-acceptance has come full circle, he’s grateful for the opportunity to help other people who are experiencing mental health crisis.

“It gives me a chance to show others that it is possible to have someone listen to you who cares, not because they are paid to do so, but because they have been down a similar path.”