Mental health experts commend wellness video series
Georgette Harrison, director of clinical and community partnerships at the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, said while most people have adapted to the physical measures needed to stay healthy and “flatten the curve” during the coronavirus pandemic, they may not be succeeding as well mentally.
The current crisis can leave many feeling “isolated, powerless, anxious or depressed,” Harrison said.
In response to those feelings, and others that people may be experiencing during this time, Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson has initiated a free mental wellness video series that is being broadcasted and archived on Darien’s TV 79.
The project is a three-way collaboration among DAF Media, The Darien Foundation, and TV 79.
Since the video series was launched in mid-April, there have been almost 20 individual videos — spanning a wide range of topics. They’re given by individuals from a broad range of areas including a psychologist, a rabbi, a social worker, a nurse and a pastor.
Topics include “Reaching out to the victims of domestic violence, Minimizing coping strategies for seniors,” “Gateway to mental health services, and “Learning to thrive at home for teens and college students.”
According to Harrison, the wellness series seeks to address “what most mental health providers are predicting or, in some cases, already seeing: a mental health crisis secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This crisis can particularly affect those people with pre-existing mental health conditions, Harrison said, or families where there are “high levels of discord that are only heightened by the loss of financial security and social isolation.”
“The fact that mental health organizations serving Darien, as well as sources of spiritual support, can come together to provide this crucial information gives me great hope that Darien, as a community, will be prepared to identify and support those who are struggling with mental health issues during this stressful time,” added Harrison, who works in Greenwich and Stamford.
“No one should have to suffer alone,” she added.
Diversity of voices
Susannah Lewis, who is a community relations manager at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, said people’s needs, as well as their emotional and psychological response to the pandemic can differ greatly from one person to another.
Therefore, “to have in one centralized place, then, and accessible to the whole community, a collection of recordings that comprises a diversity of voices and perspectives on a range of topics relating to our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, is invaluable,” she said.
She added that the series is a great example of how all those experts can join forces to help and support their community during this period of social distancing.
Chelsea McGee, a licensed clinical social worker and manager of clinical services in Darien and New Canaan for Family Centers’ Center for HOPE, said despite the challenging times society is currently facing, there are “silver linings if you’re lucky enough to be able to find and focus on them.”
Some of those positives include spending more time with immediate family, life slowing down, and communities coming together to support restaurants and small businesses, she said.
Additionally, she said, the series makes people aware that support is out there, for whatever they might be going through at this time.
“There is help and support now if you need it — from counseling centers and social service agencies like Family Centers, the local senior center or social services department, food pantries, churches and places of worship,” she said.
This support isn’t leaving any time soon, according to McGee.
It will be there in the coming weeks and months “as we begin to really settle in to how much we all have been impacted collectively by this situation,” she said.
Rebecca Martorella, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Darien, pointed out the importance of self-forgiveness during the stressful period.
“We have to give ourselves a break,” she said. “Most of us are not prepared to teach our own children at varying academic levels, especially while also working from home, providing comfort during a roller coaster of a time, preparing meals seemingly nonstop, and trying to manage our household with limited budgets, limited mobility, limited access to goods, and excessive safety concerns,” she said.
Additionally, she said it’s OK to admit to feeling overwhelmed, to ask for time alone, to take a pass on epic family projects, and to let everyone in the household entertain themselves for a while.
“Remember, the whole world is in the same place. School expectations will need to bend. Relationships are going to be strained at times. We will regroup and we will move forward,” Martorella said. “But right now, we have to let go of the need for control because we just don't have it.”
Her advice is to “Stay connected, take it one day at a time, and be kind, especially to yourself. And remember, hotlines are up and running for anyone who feels unsafe or needs immediate support.”