Friendship Group heals with social connections

Delicious food, friendship and a few laughs are the ingredients of a good potluck. That’s exactly what Brenda and Deb regularly enjoy with other members of the Friendship Group at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton. Their reason for organizing a support group for people living with chronic mental illness was simple: to connect.

“The atmosphere is very positive—we’re all friends here,” Deb says.

(From left) Brenda, Deb, Lilly, Brigitte, Michelle, Linda and Owen meet during a Friendship Group potluck to plan the group’s activities for next month.

“The original program for patients living with chronic mental illness [offered by the Grey Nuns Community Hospital] was closed in 2012, and as a result, some of our patients weren’t being served,” says Chris Jackowich, Manager, Mental Health Program. “Some of the patients met with us to talk about forming a group to meet on their own.”

The group meets Tuesdays to Thursdays to enjoy activities like bowling, games, billiards, movies, restaurant outings, crafts and meeting for coffee. Once a month, they have a potluck at the hospital where members plan the next month’s activities—this way, everyone has a chance to give input.

“They wanted social stability and connections,” says Brenda. “People sometimes start off shy—they aren’t sure what to expect, but after a few meetings they’re more relaxed.”

Since its inception, Chris has supported the group however she can; she books rooms at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital where members meet, helps with parking and mails out the monthly calendars to attendees. She understands how critical relationships are in helping people heal and live fulfilling lives. 

“I don’t know what I’d do without the group,” says Brenda. “You can get more depressed sitting at home, and having the group helps people establish a routine.” 

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