by Tana McKee
Welcome to this brand new and improved MHA Website!!! The launch of this new and improved wonder has been a long and introspective process—a transformation of sorts…to be more informative, user-friendly and to better meet the needs of everyone who visits our page. The very same sort of transformation that MHA itself has undergone in the past eighteen months—is also completely in line with the transformation that all of us—as human people—have made as a result of and in response to the change in the world as we know it due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Transformed website; transformed agency; transformed people…Noticing a theme yet?
Transformation…change…revision…evolving…growing…learning…etc. ALL of these words can be used to describe these last several months in our world—but more specifically to us, in our community and in all of our lives. Change can be hard and scary, and it can cause feelings of apprehension and anxiety. But it can also be an opportunity for immeasurable growth—with unlimited potential in terms of possibility for the future. Stick with me here, friends…
Eighteen months ago, all of us at MHA were very aware of this virus called Covid-19 and we knew that there was an inevitable and incoming wave of a virus that we didn’t know much about yet—but understood to be something very serious. There was cloud of uncertainty in the air and the anxiety continued to mount as we all wondered what could and consequently, what would eventually happen. And because NO ONE had any actual answers, we all just kept assuring ourselves that we would just figure things out as information evolved. I think most of us thought this ‘situation’ would basically be a wave of weirdness that we would all ride on top of for MAYBE a few weeks—a month or so at most…and then everything would be back to ‘business as usual’ or at least ‘mostly usual’. Little did we know…
So, when we left work on the evening of that March day in 2020; we packed up our laptops and whatever critical information we’d need to have at home with us for a couple of weeks so we could keep on working as normally as possible. We had NO idea what kinds of issues, situations and scenarios the next weeks…and MONTHS…would hold for us; not only as an agency or for us as the employees and consumers of MHA—but even more importantly—for each of us as PEOPLE. But we were very clearly about to find out.
Looking back now—it seems SO long ago, but in some ways, it also seems like only last week. Those first couple of weeks are a bit of a blur. The entire nation was on ‘lock down’ which sounds super scary—but what it really meant was that no one really went anywhere in public, and we limited all of our in person interactions with others. That in itself was weird and very unlike us as people but also VERY unlike us as community-based service providers. People quickly became armchair medical doctors on social media, most of us experimented with different hobbies or activities (personally, I ordered paint by number kits, put together puzzles, tried to crochet little baby hats, ordered way too much on Amazon and watched WAY too much Netflix…) and we enjoyed a lot of ‘togetherness’ with the others in our household. Depending on the day, that togetherness could be really great…or it could be not so great.
As The Mental Health Association, how would we respond professionally to this crisis? Well—as it turns out, we would do what we have always done. We continued to meet people where they were (even though it was often by ZOOM or by telephone) and we all worked together to be and do whatever folks needed us to, all while keeping the safety of everyone first and foremost in our minds.
We, as an agency, learned a LOT of things very quickly in those early weeks. We learned how to navigate ZOOM to meet one on one with our staff and with our consumers…and we even learned how to have staff meetings via Zoom—or by using Microsoft Teams. Even the more technologically challenged ones of us learned how to share our computer screens with other meeting participants and we all laughed during meetings when telling someone that no one heard any of the brilliant things they had just said because their sound was on ‘mute’ the entire time. But these tools/programs/apps would become almost second nature to us before long! We learned to get REALLY creative in the ways in which we would reach others…and we spent countless hours teaching ourselves different ways to engage others more effectively using these telehealth methods and making things easier and more interesting. And then we shared these different techniques and ideas with one another so that everyone could do all of the things.
As I’m sure you can imagine—just as WE (as individual, human people) were trying to figure out how to simply ‘be’ in this new world; WE as an agency…were working so hard and diligently to reign in our own personal ‘feelings’ so we could keep doing what was needed for the children and adults we serve. But as the days and weeks went on—we would learn that maybe we didn’t HAVE to put our own personal feelings aside to better serve our community—but instead maybe we could be even MORE effective if we would give ourselves permission to lean into our own uncomfortableness and learn how to be okay in that—so that we could then USE that to be even more authentically real with everyone—and to just BE with them. Hmmm…we might just be on to something here….
Visit our new website again next Friday to hear more about the things we learned about ourselves as individuals during this pandemic journey and how that has collectively changed the landscape of our agency… We’ll see you soon!