The crack of the bat echoes through Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park) as Dee ‘Flash’ Gordon takes off to first base. From not far behind the catcher, a small group shares cheers of excitement and sighs of disappointment throughout the game.
This small group at the Seattle Mariners home game includes staff and clients of Supportive Living Services (SLS) at Jewish Family Service. Their comradery begins building on the way to the game as they discuss division rankings and the finer distinctions between the American and National leagues. They are busy catching up with one another and getting to know others in the group, because baseball is not the only reason they came out.
“Here, it’s more of a community thing,” Thomas* said. “The noise, the comradery and the smell.” Waves of cheers and unified chants, the buzz of discussion with those around you, the scent of fried food and sunscreen. That community feeling is particularly meaningful and rare for people who can often be isolated or feel alone because of their mental health.
JFS knows that community is not just a desire, but a need that can affect mental health outcomes.
“There are many benefits with being consistently engaged in the community,” Shaida Hossein, SLS Community Engagement Specialist said. “It can reduce suicide risk, make people feel more hopeful with their recovery and life goals, and show an increased willingness and trust to accept help from others.”
Barriers — of expense, transportation, access to care, mental health and misconceptions about mental illness — can limit, and at times, prevent people from engaging in community experiences and building relationships. JFS helps reduce or manage those barriers and offers people the opportunity to join activities with others. Reducing barriers includes providing donated tickets and transportation to events, providing a safe space for clients to feel valued, as well as recognizing and supporting individual needs during the event.
At JFS, socializing is client-driven. “Clients have ownership of their goals for increasing community engagement and decreasing their isolation and loneliness,” Shaida said. “This empowers and inspires them to living more fulfilling lives, which increases overall wellness.”
Community events are also a way to strengthen relationships between staff and clients, and foster friendship among participants. “It’s an opportunity to build not only a sense of community but also trust,” said Josh Maduell, SLS Instruction & Support Specialist. “When you give people the space to fully share themselves, their interests and passions, they know you can see them as a whole person.”
When there is a sense of trust, support and community, a win for the home team is just a bonus.
*Name changed for privacy.
Thank you to the companies and individuals who donate tickets to events and make these engagement opportunities possible.
By Rachel Anne Seymour, Marketing & Communications Manager