Start the Conversation: Oregon Helpers Wellness Initiative

May 19, 2023 | 
Mental Health Awareness Month

“The program is a voice in creating safe spaces for difficult conversations. We make the spaces welcoming, inclusive, and keep them trauma-informed so people can come for that necessary support.” – Stacey, Bilingual/Bicultural Group Facilitator

The Oregon Helpers Wellness Initiative is changing the game in how they Start the Conversation around mental health! Offered through Lines for Life, the program provides critical support to frontline and essential workers by promoting healthy work-life balance and preventing burnout and compassion fatigue. Stacey and Yvette, two Oregon Helpers facilitators, shared their insights on how this program helps Start the Conversation each day – in ways both big and small.

Responding to Community Needs

“Rolling out our program during the COVID-19, we were building the plane while flying it. Now we focus on implementing what we know works, but also staying responsive to the emerging needs of Oregon’s community of helpers,” – Yvette, Wellness Group Facilitator

The program launched in 2020 as a crisis-oriented solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, concurrent with rising political crises and racial injustices.

Since its launch, Oregon Helpers has evolved into three key components: affinity groups, monthly wellness webinars, and free, high-quality wellness services, including limited series workshops. The program focuses on the big picture, including how systems make frontline and essential workers sick and how to prevent these issues and heal from them. These elements provide a safe and inclusive place where workers are given an opportunity to:

  • Connect with others;
  • Share their feelings and emotions;
  • Check-in with one another;
  • Grow and develop practical skills;
  • Find safe spaces with people who share similar identities and experiences.

“One of the ways we Start the Conversation is by asking, ‘What do you need right now?’” Yvette explained. The program takes a peer-facilitated approach, with the group facilitators there to create a level of depth and safety around the conversation.

“These are people that are dedicating their lives to serving others’ wellness. We’re helping by giving them space to address their own experiences.” – Yvette, Wellness Group Facilitator

As the crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic waned and “Zoom fatigue” became a present issue, the program shifted to adapt to the needs of the community by hosting limited series workshops focused on specific topics, such as webinars and skills training. This approach helps individuals by letting them know what to expect and allowing them to commit to the work for a limited period of time, emphasizing that they are welcome whenever they are ready to join.

Looking to the Future

The Oregon Helpers Wellness Initiative is a shining example of how to Start the Conversation around mental health in different communities. As the program continues to evolve and adapt to the needs of the community, it will remain a vital resource for frontline and essential workers in Oregon and beyond.

“We’re going to learn – and we’re going to learn together. That’s the beauty of Oregon Helpers, and that’s the beauty of Lines for Life.” – Stacey, Bilingual/Bicultural Group Facilitator

Discover the Oregon Helpers Wellness Initiative and sign up for more information here.

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