This article originally appeared in a special report from The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health.
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Healing happens here
Two separate initiatives at the Brockville Mental Health Centre (BMHC) came together to spread kindness and highlight creativity at a critical time during the pandemic last year.
The Kindness Connection group was developed by staff in response to the lockdown brought about by COVID-19. Group members came together every week from May 7 until their “graduation” on August 21, 2020.
Melissa Harris, a senior psychometrist in the forensic program at BMHC and one of the group’s facilitators, said the group’s program was loosely based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a form of behavioural therapy that combines mindfulness with self-acceptance. ACT encourages people to accept what is out of their control and embrace their thoughts, feelings, and challenges.
Group members brainstormed ways to show kindness to themselves and to others, which grew into a commitment to be more mindful, make positive changes, and spread kindness to others.
“It created that kind of small pocket of hope,” said Harris. “Being resilient within this time was an accomplishment, and I think that really helped people get through and see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Kindness Club’s graduation coincided with a client-based multimedia art show that was planned with assistance from support staff, including recreation therapy, occupational therapy, social work, psychometry and the members of the Client Advisory Council.
“The art show was client-centred and client-driven all the way through and I think it was really great how the allied health staff came together to help organize it,” said Natalie Zizzo, an occupational therapist who was involved in the event. “It was a very positive experience.”
“It helped us cope with some of our own issues, the time that we had to spend inside,” said Mike, who contributed three pieces of art to the show. “It’s therapeutic, and it was nice to see some of the people’s work. It was encouraging to see their involvement.”