Living through COVID-19 – Virtual sessions offer hope, resiliency and support October 1, 2020 Staff at Horizon’s St. Joseph’s Community Health Centre (SJCHC), located in uptown Saint John, have embraced the adversity of living through a pandemic and responded by offering virtual, supportive, educational sessions through their Hope Series. “With creativity and compassion, we created this new series and expanded our services,” said Robin Kirkpatrick, clinical lead at SJCHC. “Our message is that there is hope and we will get through this together.” The Hope Series offers weekly virtual sessions to clients from SJCHC’s team of allied-health professionals. “As a team, we’ve developed the Hope Series: Living well through uncertain times to provide skills to help you cope with living through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Robin said. “Sessions are facilitated by different members of our team at SJCHC.” Robin said normally they offer in-person group sessions and support, but with COVID-19, it’s simply not possible. “We recognize that we are living through an unprecedented time of extreme national anxiety,” she said. “COVID-19 has widened persistent mental health inequities, making things worse for those who were already vulnerable.” Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada, mental health has declined by 44 per cent in women, and 32 per cent in men (Resilience – Canadian Mental Health Impact Report 2020). “The same report tells us there is a gender gap as well, with nearly a quarter of women indicating moderate to severe anxiety – higher than the 18 per cent of men reporting those feelings – and a similar finding in terms of loneliness,” said Robin. Knowing this, Robin and the team at SJCHC decided they needed to continue to offer group sessions and support for those who are in need. “Our goal is to focus on, despite the stress, ways to protect people’s mental health: exercising, being active, connecting with family and friends, maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Robin said. Each week, the idea of ‘hope’ is weaved through the session, no matter the subject. “Hope makes it possible to imagine a positive future for yourself and your community,” Robin said. “Hope also focuses on resiliency – the ability to get through hard times, and to cope with difficulties and embrace them, which can create personal growth.” For those who may not have access to the internet at home, Robin said they’ve partnered with St. John’s Stone Church to allow clients a space to attend sessions, while abiding by the public health guidelines related to physical distancing. “The Stone Church has offered a space where people can go. They have a large space where people can be physically distanced and wear a mask,” Robin said. “They provide internet access using a large screen.” Robin said the idea was to allow people to sign up for one or two sessions they’re interested in, or they’re welcome to sign up for every session. “Each of the sessions are independent of one another because we wanted to provide people with an opportunity to come to those they’re interested in attending,” Robin said. “There’s no commitment to log on each week.” Sessions take place on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and are free of charge. Those interested must pre-register and may do so by calling 506-632-5537 or emailing Amanda.Barton@HorizonNB.ca. Upcoming Hope Series schedule: Nov. 4: Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle Nov. 18: Medication managementNov. 25: Emotions and how to copeDec. 2: RelationshipsDec. 9: Mindless / emotional eating during COVID-19Dec. 16: Coping with the holidays Robin Kirkpatrick is a Clinical Lead Social Worker at Horizon’s St. Joseph’s Community Health Centre (SJCHC) in Saint John. She has worked in various social work roles for the past 24 years. At SJCHC, she provides individual counselling to people experiencing anxiety, depression or overall life stressors and also group programs. Her role there is to support the allied health team and the primary care physicians and nurse practitioners. She also provides support and education to community agencies working with priority neighbourhoods. She has a passion for self-compassion work and a strength-based approach and sees the importance of education and support in this area.