Jen MacLeod is a Behavioral Health coordinator at the clinic. She has been working there for two years. Among other responsibilities, she runs mental wellness groups and is a care coordinator.
She came across Mood Lifters through a mutual acquaintance. Jen says: “The timing was perfect. I was experiencing a lot of stress of my job, because I had just taken on many new duties. I was just really trying to focus on time management and how I was going to just balance everything in my work and home life.”
She goes on to say that she first decided to enroll in the program as a participant. She says: “I found it really helpful with managing stress […] and relationships with my coworkers became easier. I just learned things about myself that I never even realized that, ‘Oh, yeah. I do, do this.’ Or [Mood Lifters] would give examples and I would say, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s me!’ So, I found it very helpful. I really enjoyed it, and I knew that our patients, especially this age, could use something like this. So, absolutely, I found it so very helpful.”
She found several of the meetings over the 15 weeks to be particularly useful including the meetings on repairing relationships. She says: “I felt like that was something I could apply to my coworkers a lot. We may not mean to offend people, but sometimes we do. And then vice versa, sometimes we just have to forgive people even if they’re not sorry for your own peace of mind.”
She said that, after participating, she decided that Mood Lifters would be a great fit for Corner Health. She says: “We serve ages 12 to 25. And although we’re not a free clinic, we provide affordable health services. So that means that if you can’t pay your bill, it will never be sent to collection. That anyone can come here. Your bill can be based on your income on a sliding fee, even if you’re uninsured. So, we have a lot of college students, a lot of high school students. Most of our patient population is from Washtenaw County. But we do get people from all over the state, especially for our transgender care. People do travel several hours to come here for that.”
She says that, like many other locations providing mental health care, Corner Health has a constant wait list for therapy. So, she thought that Mood Lifters would fill a big gap. She adds: “We didn’t currently have any mental health or mental wellness groups but we received a grant that it was a requirement that we had a mental wellness group. We had always just wanted to do something like this. I personally tried to run a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group, but I just never got enough participants. It seemed like all of the mental health groups that we had just were not working. So, this came along at the perfect time. It was what we were looking for. And then lastly, just knowing our patient population and that this age group has so many mental health issues. There’s a stigma around that. So many times they don’t want to ask for help. And the fact that the program is called Mood Lifters, it’s not called mental health whatever. It’s a non-stigmatizing name. It’s an appealing, it’s a friendly name. I think that that had a lot to do with it too, that the participants thought, ‘Okay, I’m just going to lift my mood, this sounds great.’ I could not believe it. I had three different patients say the exact same thing to me when I invited them to participate in Mood Lifters. They said, ‘I’ve been waiting for something like this.’ So that was really great to hear.”
She says that the content was ideal for their young audience and the fact that it was peer-led really helped the people accept it. She says: “it wasn’t coming from a teacher coming off as preachy. It was just coming off by a peer […] One of our leaders is 23 years old and close to the age as our patients, so I think that was really helpful to them that it was led by a peer, and they really came to trust her. That really helped, that they were around the same and it wasn’t a professional telling them, ‘You have to do this, you need to do this.’ It was just saying, ‘Here’s these tools. Use them if you like.’”
She loved the fact that Mood Lifters already had outcomes through a Randomized Control Trial. She says that Corner tries to use evidence-based programming and this made Mood Lifters a good fit.
Jen says that she had to go through an approval process to get Mood Lifters into Corner Health. Part of this process is that new programs need to go through the executive director. She had the Mood Lifters founder present the product to an internal review group. She agreed that everyone was on-board and determined that Mood Lifters was something that they wanted to bring in. In particular, the executive director was excited to add the program.
Corner promoted Mood Lifters how it typically promotes other programs, through flyers and the therapy wait list. She says that it can be challenging to recruit teens because they have so many things going on. They are often busy with school and their other activities, so she thought recruitment might be difficult.
Corner offered two groups for the community and immediately both were over-subscribed. She says that the demographics of both of the groups is quite diverse. And people who were on the wait list for Mood Lifters continue to ask her when the next group is, because they are hearing great things from participants. Corner is also offering one group for staff. She says that once the staff heard about it, they immediately wanted to participate as well. She added that 11 staff are attending regularly.
She says that before the group started, they did have a few people that screened for severe mental illness that Corner Health personnel and the Mood Lifters team thought might not be appropriate for the group. Mood Lifters worked with the team at Corner Health to screen out and communicate this information to participants who weren’t a good fit. She says that the program is effective at screening out people who are not appropriate.
Jen believes that there is a huge opportunity for Mood Lifters because so many organizations want to offer stress, depression and anxiety programming.
Jen says that the feedback from all three groups has been outstanding. She says: “Participants say ‘I didn’t know that these skills and strategies existed.’ So, I thought that was really nice to hear, that they just didn’t know there are things they could do to improve their mood and to live a more full and productive life. And I also found it interesting how many of them were pleasantly surprised by the group format.”
Corner Health plans to offer more sessions in the fall. She says ‘This is essential programming for our mission. Of course, we want to continue with the program.’