June 2021 - 36

M E N TA L H E A LT H

PHOTO COURTESY OF JERSEY CITY DEPARTMENT OF
RECREATION AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

" It really comes down to checking
in regularly and letting people talk
about things that aren't related to
work, " she says. " Another thing is
to freely say, 'what are you feeling?'
and to listen, not provide solutions. "
Shull discovered early on that this
tactic was critical in connecting to
his staff, especially during times of
such uncertainty. " Things would
change daily - I mean, you'd shift
gears from one thing to the other...
[and that's] hard on people. You
come to work and you want to
know what your expectations are,
and when you don't know, it's not
good for your mental health, " he
says. " So I did a few sessions online and said anybody could come
[to] these phone calls and ask me
questions. Information was really
powerful for staff to have. " Shull
also says it has been especially important for staff to have access to
upper management to have their
questions answered directly.
At the West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation and Community
Services Department, leadership
used existing communication
channels to share information by
incorporating a mental health and
wellness section into the monthly

36	 Parks & Recreation

| J U N E 2 02 1 | PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N .O R G

staff newsletter. " A lot of what we
do works around serving others, so
[this] was more of an introspective
look at yourself, and [an acknowledgement] that you're not immune
to those traumas and different
things within life, and...in order to
bring out our best selves, we have
to care for ourselves, " says Strasser.

Recognition Makes
a Difference
Park and recreation leadership at
agencies across the country also
found that recognizing their staff
was important in strengthening
their sense of purpose at work,
which in turn benefitted their overall mental health. " We celebrated
[NRPA's Park and Recreation Professionals Day] here...and we acknowledged parks and recreation
professionals, " says McLaughlin.
" I think in this profession, people
aren't told that [they're professionals] often enough, and they should
be.... I think it goes a long way to
make sure that people understand
that what they're doing is really important to everybody around them. "
In addition, McLaughlin purchased sweatshirts for her staff,
many of whom were spending

long days outside. She says, " It
seems simple, but...I think it's empowering as a workforce out in the
community to have a uniform. It's
small potatoes, but it's really not in
the big picture. "
Shull agrees that recognizing the
important work of his staff has
helped keep spirits up across the
department. " I tried to visit sites
and just get out and say thank you.
A lot of it was just making sure that
they know we know how important
the work is that they're doing, and
how difficult it is and how grateful
we are for it, " he says. " That stuff
goes a long way. "
In West Allis, recognition came
in the form of job security and
workload support that reassured
staff that they were an essential
part of the team. " We as a department made a commitment that if
there were any closures or people
had to be quarantined...they would
continue to get paid, and I think
that has really helped alleviate a
lot of stress for a lot of staff, " says
Strasser. " Part of that, too, is that
we wanted to encourage people, 'If
you're not feeling good, you need to
stay home.' And I think for a lot of
our staff, work is their social connection, their family. When you're
away from that, I do think there is
some validity to the fear of missing
out or [feeling] like they've let the
team down. So, I think by providing
some of that support, [we] helped
alleviate some of those stressors. "

Ensuring Equity
in Outreach
According to Chambers, one positive outcome of the pandemic is

Jersey City Department of Recreation
and Youth Development employees
help schedule COVID-19 testing at a
phone bank.



June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of June 2021

June 2021 - 1
June 2021 - Cover1
June 2021 - Cover2
June 2021 - 1
June 2021 - 2
June 2021 - 3
June 2021 - 4
June 2021 - 5
June 2021 - 6
June 2021 - 7
June 2021 - 8
June 2021 - 9
June 2021 - 10
June 2021 - 11
June 2021 - 12
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June 2021 - 42
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June 2021 - 48
June 2021 - 49
June 2021 - 50
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June 2021 - Cover3
June 2021 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com