CHARLOTTE – Neil MacAuley watched a video on Facebook a few years ago of a photographer visiting hospitals, dressing children up as superheroes and organizing photo shoots to create posters for them.
MacAuley has started a similar partnership with Atrium Health Behavioral Health Charlotte.
“Oftentimes, we are trying to find activities to brighten their mood and give them something to look forward to,” said Dr. Ryan Livingston, a psychiatrist at Atrium Health Behavioral Health Charlotte. “Even if it’s just a little while on a Saturday, I think it allows there to be some semblance of normalcy and deal with different challenges.”
Atrium Health Behavioral Health Charlotte treats youth that may be experiencing depression or various types of anxiety. Some patients may have experienced trauma or have considered some form of self-harm.
“I think it gives them some sort of hope and shows that people obviously care about them,” Livingston said. “I think it contributes a lot to their overall treatment, for sure.
Patients at the office’s inpatient unit or visiting the psychiatric emergency department get to pick their superhero.
Some of the most popular personas have been Superman, Spiderman, Black Panther and Maleficent. The team has expanded the idea of superheroes to include doctors, nurses, athletes and teachers.
Volunteers get children thinking about how Spiderman would stand or how he would shoot a web so that his essence is captured well in front of the camera. They also play that character’s music during the photo shoot.
“I had one kid who was really not connecting with anybody,” MacAulay said. “Afterward, he asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I said, ‘Because we love you guys.’ He started crying on me.”
While kids get a kick out of becoming superheroes, Livingston said seeing some of the staff and volunteers participate in the effort has been a real joy.
“It’s become more of a treat for the adults,” Livingston said. “People come in on their days off. I think it’s been a really huge morale booster for the team as well.”
MacAuley funds the effort through portraits he shoots on the weekends. His goal is to expand Wonder Warriors so that it touches more children more often. He describes it as a project of volunteers.
“It’s really coming together as a community to help support these kids,” MacAulay said.
Want to learn more?
Atrium Health’s Behavioral Health Help Line is available 24/7 at 704-444-2400. Those interested in donating adult size superhero costumes for Wonder Warriors may email Tracy.Vanhassel@atri umhealth.org. Visit “Wonder Warriors for Super Kids” on Facebook.