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Treena Smith becomes first female executive director of P.E.I. mental health organization

Treena Smith has just taken over as executive director of the P.E.I. branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Smith is believed to be the first woman to assume the role.
Treena Smith has just taken over as executive director of the P.E.I. branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. - Contributed

Treena Smith hopes to bring a calm voice and a steady hand to mental health in P.E.I.

The Chelton Beach resident has just taken over as executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s provincial chapter and is the first woman to ever hold the position.

When asked if being the first female executive director meant anything extra special to her, Smith paused before talking about how much she has admired the way Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief health officer, has led Islanders through the current pandemic.

“I suppose it does mean something,’’ Smith said in an interview on Thursday. “We are seeing more female leaders in big non-profit and in-profit business, although I think we need to see more at a larger level. I do find it interesting to see more female leaders in the non-profit sector. It speaks to our time, hopefully.’’

Reid Burke, previous CMHA PEI executive director, spent more than 30 years with the association prior to his retirement in January. - Government of P.E.I. Photo
Reid Burke, previous CMHA PEI executive director, spent more than 30 years with the association prior to his retirement in January. - Government of P.E.I. Photo

Smith takes over from Reid Burke, who spent more than 30 years with the association prior to his retirement in January. During his tenure, the P.E.I. branch grew from eight employees to 100.

Smith had spent the past 13 years with UPEI, having served most recently as the university’s director of student affairs. Her background is as a youth worker and counsellor by trade, and she has worked in the mental health field in both Ontario and P.E.I.

At UPEI, Smith did some teaching and ran programming, and that led to a senior management role. She has also served on the board of directors with the Canadian Mental Health Association, provincially and federally.

Smith said she loved working at UPEI.

“My job (at UPEI) was one of the best jobs I ever had, taking care of students and leading the university through some mental health stuff. I’ve been very fortunate.’’

However, she felt the time had come to move on.

Smith hopes to expand the association into new areas.

“I think, particularly in a small province limited in resources, we’re scrambling to get (services) online (but) ... I think we’re getting there.’’

Smith knows she is taking on the role of executive director in one of the more turbulent times in society. The coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic has a lot of people on edge.

“I think this is really going to make our community more cohesive. We see people reaching out in ways they never have before. And people are using the phone again, which I think is a wonderful thing in terms of connection.’’

Just the facts

Some extra information on Treena Smith:

  • What she’s watching: The Good Doctor
  • What she’s reading: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • What she listens to: Heather Bambrick, a jazz artist in Toronto
  • What she loves to do: Walk her dog on the beach


Twitter.com/DveStewart

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