The current pandemic disrupted our daily structure, social networks and wellbeing. For those of us who are trying to stay well under normal circumstances, the disruption to our regular support groups can mean a rapid decline back into battling with our mental health and striving to stay well. Social support groups such as those built up by Sussex Oakleaf are suddenly a fragile life line.
Online groups have been an incredibly valuable resource to utilise during the pandemic and feedback from Sussex Oakleaf clients has been, ‘the online groups are a lifeline, sometimes quite literally’. What started as an experiment for what seemed like a group of technophobes, including myself, has become a roaring success. As an organisation we have embraced the challenge of utilising technology and our staff and dedicated volunteers have answered the call and stepped up to the plate in the face of worries about being seen on camera, anxiety about accidentally ending a group by pressing the wrong button or not having the confidence to facilitate a group online.
We are currently running a whole range of online groups and supporting new clients to engage in groups online. The peer model of recovery is flourishing through Sussex Oakleaf’s use of online groups. They provide the structure to the week that is so easily lost during the pandemic and the non-judgemental safe space where those battling with their mental health can be heard and listened to. The online groups are based on meaningful activity and are a lot of fun for anyone involved. We have virtual tours around the world, magic lessons, quizzes, discussion groups, mindfulness practice, creative writing and song to name some of the online groups currently still running.
Whilst not a perfect solution, the online groups continue to provide a social network where the birds of worry and anxiety can be shooed away long enough for them to not build a nest.
S Sheehan, Assistant Service Manager