June 17, 2020

Mental health resources in trying times

McKinsey & Company has reported that due to an overwhelming confluence of factors — economic uncertainty, fear of getting sick, collective grief, social isolation, and more — COVID-19 is “an unprecedented threat to the current and future health of our society.”

That’s heavy stuff, and good reason to worry about the mental health of your colleagues, coworkers, and employees. Thankfully, there are resources available, and we at the Colorado Springs affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Colorado Springs) want to share some that could be helpful.

Reading materials

One of the best articles that we’ve seen for business leaders is “5 Ways To Support Your Employees’ Mental Health During A Pandemic,” in Forbes. Based on an interview with Nancy Reardon, Chief Strategy and Product Officer at Maestro Health, it offers advice such as: “Managers and HR should also communicate consistently about mental health resources offered and covered in employees’ benefits plans, such as counselors they can call, meditation and stress management services and access to employee assistance programs.”

Meanwhile, the American Psychiatric Association’s Center for Workplace Mental Health has pulled together some common, but helpful, tips for staying well while working remotely. An easily downloadable and printable PDF is available here, but the whole site is worth checking out.

Local resources

When it’s time to investigate local resources, there are various options.

One, of course, is NAMI Colorado Springs. We’re a local nonprofit that offers educational programs and support groups to people who are navigating mental illness, either themselves or as family members. Trained peers lead our programs and groups, connecting with people through shared “lived experience” and removing isolation and stigma.

Outside of formal programming, anyone can call NAMI’s office between the hours of 9 and 5, Monday through Friday, for resources and referrals. (See our online compilation of services being offered and insurances being accepted by the area’s larger counseling operations during the pandemic.) We also have a lending library on-site at our 1615 S. Murray Blvd., office.

One resource we try to make sure everyone knows about is Colorado Crisis Services, a state operation that includes free, 24/7, confidential phone and text counseling for people who have a problem and need to talk it through with someone. You do not have to be feeling suicidal to use the line. By dialing 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or by texting 38255, you can be connected with a counselor who can help you create action plans to deal with issues related to family, friends, money, or virtually anything else on your mind. It’s even possible to schedule check-ins a couple of days later. (Other crisis services are listed here.)

The Man Therapy website is designed specifically for those working-aged men who might need to hear that “Sometimes a man needs a pork shoulder to cry on.” The whole site’s brilliantly done, with links to videos and Q&As that destigmatize mental health issues, and information on accessing one-on-one resources.

Those with tweens or teenage children will want to check out “Beyond the Curve,” a brand new campaign organized by the Community Health Partnership in collaboration with other local organizations, including NAMI. It’s full of tips on how teens can cope with grief, adjust to change, and more.

Other local nonprofits that do good work and offer free groups are Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention (which was another key collaborator on the “Beyond the Curve” campaign) and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

Local training

Finally, if you want to become more personally knowledgeable about mental health, there are two training programs you should know about.

One is Mental Health First Aid, a one-day program that teaches laypeople to identify signs and symptoms of mental health issues and to respond appropriately. AspenPointe offers this international, evidence-based program in the Pikes Peak region, and in non-pandemic times will bring it directly to your workplace. During COVID-19, it is offering a virtual version and expects during the week of June 15 to begin scheduling trainings for mid-July. Contact coordinator Madeline Arroyo at madeline.arroyo@aspenpointe.org or 719.352.1471.

And then there’s the Greater Resilience Information Toolkit (GRIT) Program at UCCS, which (among other things) trains volunteers in the community to become GRIT coaches who promote wellness and resilience among people in their circles. Though hundreds have already gone through the five-hour online training, GRIT — a product of UCCS psychology professor Dr. Charles “Chip” Benight’s 25 years of research and work — is in many ways ramping up at a hugely opportune time for our community. You can find out more and sign up here.

If you’re looking for something that’s not covered here, please don’t hesitate to call NAMI at 719.473.8477, or to email us at info@namicos.org. As Chamber leaders have been saying throughout the pandemic, we are in this together.

Courtesy of Kirk Woundy, associate executive director of NAMI Colorado Springs.