The mental health community at Shangri-La is one that needs regular social contact, interaction, and routine as the people in the program learn to manage their mental health symptoms. ENTER COVID-19! A department that once depended on the social interaction of the communities they have formed within Shangri-La were now faced with some pretty extreme limitations.
Mike Norman, one of Shangri-La’s QMHA/Case Managers for the Mental Health Clinic looked at the problem got creative.
“After researching the capabilities of Zoom,” Mike explained, “talking to insurance companies about what is covered in telehealth services, and brainstorming with the individuals themselves, two Netflix activity groups were born.”
The Thursday night group is catered towards individuals we serve whom have skills in communication and socialization, but desire to learn more about common health, society, and human experience issues and discuss and digest these issues with others.
“By learning more about others experiences in society,” Mike elaborated, “as well as gaining context and information about their own experiences, that members will grow in empathy for others, self-discovery, and potentially form connections and friendships within the group itself.”
The Friday night group is catered towards individuals whose primary goal and need is to practice communication and socialization skills.
“This group is on a rotating schedule where each member gets to choose a film or television show of their choice,” Mike said. “They are encouraged to co-host the evening with me, when possible, to lead the group in enjoying their film. Members, in this way, get to practice leadership skills as well.”
The group is an open group that allows members to attend as they choose, to leave the group early if they decide to, to turn the camera off or not answer a question if they are uncomfortable. Because the focus of this group is to practice skills and our members are incredibly diverse, we wanted an inclusive and safe group that supports each member where they are at.
One member in of the group said, "I am so thankful for this group. I really struggle to communicate in groups. But in this group, I get to practice and if things get too hard, I can just leave or turn the camera off for a minute and come back and try again."
As the weeks have gone by, Mike has noticed the group is increasing their conversation with one another instead of him. He has noticed they are teasing each other and asking each other questions. “This shows me their growing bond and friendship and communication skills as they are focusing on peers more than the host,” Mike observed.
Looking to the future, in hopes of COVID restrictions coming to an end and potentially being able to get out more, one has to ask the question, will this group continue?
“The group members have all stated unanimously that they want to attend this group whether it is virtual or in person,” Mike said. “It seems like these groups are here to stay, and I couldn't be happier. I wait all week to see the group members just as much as they wait see me and each other.”
When the restrictions are lifted, one of member of the group eagerly suggested, “we can meet at Shangri-La, we can have popcorn and soda, and we can watch movies".