October 23, 2018
Story by Kirsten Goruk | Photo by Tammy O’Quinn
FORT McMURRAY — As regional residents continue to recover from the emotional scars of the 2016 wildfires, Alberta Health Services staff remain committed to not only caring for their community’s mental health, but also to the ongoing healing of their healthcare colleagues.
For the last year-and-a-half, mental health staff at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre (NLRHC) have participated in Team Care Wednesdays.
“We started to realize that something needed to be done to take care of each other,” says Tammy O’Quinn, Mental Wellness Facilitator, Addiction and Mental Health.
The idea is simple. After a draw of names, each staffer is assigned a random week to provide an activity or self-care contribution. Some staff have brought homemade treats. Others have encouraged each other to share positive stories or appreciation, or to play games.
“Sometimes it’s something as simple as bringing in coffee and sharing that together. We can all connect over a cup of coffee. Sometimes it’s a team-building activity … or people will bring in tips or ideas for self-care such as the schedules for local fitness facilities,” adds O’Quinn.
When O’Quinn’s turn came up recently, she decided to involve the team in a larger community movement. Thousands of residents are involved with a Facebook group — Fort Mac ‘Rocks! — that encourages people to paint rocks and place them around the city. You can keep a rock you find if you replace it with one of your own creation — or you can simply rehide the one you find.
“It’s become pretty big here in Fort McMurray. Everyone’s been posting pictures. People are getting outdoors, going to parks and green spaces. Families are out there finding and hiding rocks together,” says O’Quinn.
“It made sense for us to do it too and it relates to supporting mental health.”
The team painted rocks and hid them around the hospital grounds for staff, patients and residents to enjoy.
“This way, people who maybe aren’t as mobile around the community can still enjoy the rocks,” she says.
“We all know art therapy works. Painting is very therapeutic and we work in therapy. This particular movement involves being creative, but also getting outdoors, getting moving.
“They’re out there doing this with family or friends and it relates back to mental wellness and taking care of yourself.”
Every day, AHS staff are working on the frontlines to improve the lives of our patients, but it’s important to take care of yourself, too.
If you feel overwhelmed by work or family life, or are looking for support to improve your health and wellbeing, the Employee and Family Assistance Program is a free and confidential service available 24/7.
Contact EFAP at 1-877-273-3134 or by visiting www.workhealthlife.com.