PAU Counseling Grad Creates ‘Serenity Room’ for Colleagues

Friday, January 24, 2020

Mark Elliott graduated from PAU in 2017 with an M.A. in Counseling and soon after, started working as a mental health clinician with Humboldt County's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Children's Mental Health Division. He was recently instrumental in developing a side project intended for fellow employees in the building where he works. His ‘Serenity Room’ project is aimed at mitigating the impact of Secondary Traumatic Stress, which can be challenging for mental health providers.

Following is a short story that appeared in the DHHS newsletter about Mark’s project.

I recently saw it’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood based on Fred Rogers’ interaction with a journalist, Lloyd, who described himself as a “broken” person.  Lloyd’s world revolved around the darkest parts of humanity—i.e. greedy corporations, dirty politicians, etc.  In addition to the toll his work was taking on him, Lloyd struggled with his own personal demons.  Lloyd had lost faith in the world and hadn’t realized it.  This toll was distorting how he performed at work, how he interacted with important people, and his entire outlook on life.

How many of us can relate to Lloyd’s story?  One could ask, “Has my view of the world been impacted by the stress I encounter at work?  Is there a way to reduce this stress or even get back to a place less dark and bleak?  What can I, or any of us, really do?  Should I watch reruns of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on a loop until I feel better?”

Addressing Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) might be more complicated than watching old episodes of Mr. Rogers, but you know you best.  What do we have at our disposal to help?  We have ourselves—a system made up of people who, out of all the careers in the world, chose one of service to others. 

Recently Mark Elliott—clinician and member of the Humboldt County STS workgroup—floated the idea of a unique room to be located at Children, Youth, and Family Services to his supervisor and program manager.  A so-called ‘Serenity Room’.  The Serenity Room is a space intended for self-care. It’s distinct from a typical break or lunch room in that it’s not for eating or discussing work, but rather a place to relax.

The new Serenity Room’s initial conceptualization was formed in conjunction with feedback from all levels of county mental health staff as well as information gathered from similar STS initiatives in other parts of the country.  The Serenity Room contains soothing lighting, calming sounds, various choices of seating (couch, soft chair, rocking chair, and bean bags), mirrors, artwork, small weights, and a beautiful area rug.   The purpose of this space is for employees to rest, regroup, and restore in order to mitigate the impact of Secondary Traumatic Stress. 

What started out as one person’s idea created an atmosphere of teamwork and hopefulness.  Perhaps we don’t need a Mr. Rogers… we have each other.

 
 
 
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