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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Picnic program a breath of fresh air for clients and staff

The Canadian summer is short but CAMH’s Complex Mental Illness program is making the most of some sunny and temperate weather with a lunch program for clients.

We caught up with Recreation Therapist Janine Bakelaar, Occupational Therapist Shay Rosen, their colleagues and clients recently as they put on a nutritious spread in a green space at CAMH’s Queen Street site. We asked Janine and Shay to tell us more about the program.

It’s a beautiful day for a picnic. How did this summer tradition start?

Janine: The idea came from a couple of our nursing staff who were reminiscing about a time when they brought their clients outside the program unit for some fresh air and outdoor programs. As a team we discussed how we could bring this idea to reality. We wanted to make this a fun activity for our clients. The Dietary team was on board with us from the beginning, coming up with lunch menus to make our picnics unique. We cannot thank them enough for the great lunches they have been providing us.

Picnic program picture
Getting some “vitamin green!” Recreation Therapist Janine Bakelaar and client Chris get ready to hand out drinks for the picnic. 

What’s on the menu?

Janine: The menu rotates on a 4-week cycle and includes a sandwich on a sub or Kaiser with roast beef, turkey, pastrami, or corn beef plus a vegetarian option. We also have salad options including tossed, macaroni, coleslaw or potato, juice, and a desert (ice-cream, pastry, pudding or fruit cup). Picnic program picture
Table for 11, please! Clients and staff at a Complex Mental Illness (CMI) picnic lunch in July. 

Your team provides inpatient care for clients with schizophrenia. How does the picnic program help clients? How have they responded?

Shay: Since we started the picnics this June, there has been a really positive response from both clients and staff. Clients note how much they enjoy eating lunch off the unit and being outside to get some “vitamin green!” They have reported being in a happier mood and enjoying the opportunity to socialize with co-clients and staff.

Some or our clients have taken on the responsibility to help out by serving their peers. This initiative has been great to see!

The change in atmosphere and location has a positive effect on our clients’ mood and affect.

How does this program fit into your overall approach towards clients? How often will you have the picnics?

Shay: Our team strives to provide the best possible care for our clients by demonstrating great customer service, positive group programming, and by building strong therapeutic rapports with our clients.

Working together as a team, we started the picnics the first week of June and hope to continue each Wednesday until the end of August.

Picnic program picture
Just chillin’: Occupational Therapist Shay Rosen (left), with Registered Nurse Nana Ampofo and clients Jessie and Chris.   

Picnic program picture
Second servings: Registered Nurse Nana Ampofo (centre) with client Jonathan. The picnic is held in the green space at the south-east end of the CAMH Queen Street site. It’s a popular spot for staff, clients and guests in summer.

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