OCO Behavioral Health Residential Services Attends Simulation Training

Above from left to right are, Hope Housing Program Manager Bre Jackowski, OCO Family Care Specialist Penny Pratt, and OCO Hope Housing Coordinator Reva Reynolds. Photo provided by OCO.

FULTON, NY – Mental health professionals provide much needed care and comfort for the consumers they work with. They assist individuals in developing life-skills and empower them on their journey to recovery.

While mental health professionals provide essential services that have a positive impact on the quality of life for those dealing with mental health conditions, it is difficult to truly comprehend the challenges they face.

Staff of Oswego County Opportunities Behavioral Health Residential Services recently had the opportunity to attend a special Oswego County Opportunities Behavioral Health Residential Services. Developed by Pat Deegan PhD, the Hearing Distressing Voices Simulation helps to increase empathy by having mental health professionals, first responders and others experience for themselves the challenges faced by people with mental health conditions.

“Many of the things our consumers deal with, such as hearing voices, really do not touch our lives. It can be hard to understand if you have never experienced it. You can read about it, but that is far from actually experiencing it. This simulation training provided that experience,” said Hope Housing Program Manager Bre Jackowski.

While wearing headphones and listening to a variety of distressing voices, participants were asked to complete a series of tasks ranging from preparing snacks, making coffee, and playing board games to filling out forms and contacting first responders in an emergency situation. To add to the experience participants with the headphones were paired with an individual that asked questions about the tasks they were doing and corrected them if they made a mistake.

“The training proved to be both stressful and enlightening,” said OCO Family Care Specialist Penny Pratt. “It was very unnerving. It was difficult to maintain your focus and concentrate on the tasks while listening to the voices. It actually made me dizzy trying to do so. It was a real rollercoaster ride. Some of the voices said mean things and were telling you what to do. Others were encouraging. You really can’t imagine what people with mental health conditions deal with until you experience just a small sample of the challenges they face every day.”

Other participants had similar reactions to the training. The frustration of completing simple tasks, the stress of trying to answer questions and accepting criticism when making mistakes was impossible to deal with. Some even found themselves responding to and being physically upset at what they were hearing.

“The Hearing Distressing Voices Simulation was very effective,” said OCO Hope Housing Coordinator Reva Reynolds. “It was interesting to observe how the participants responded to the challenges. They left the training with a new found appreciation of the struggles their consumers are coping with and a better understanding of how to address them. Our services are person centered. The more we understand what our consumers are experiencing the better we can help with their journey of recovery.”

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