Mental Health Challenges and Resources

Monthly Theme: Creative Community During Times of Crisis
Week 2 Topic: Mental Health Challenges and Resources

Presenter: Debra Stanley, Imani Unidad; Lisa Anderson, University of Notre Dame; Stephen Lassen, University of Kansas Medical Center

Event Summary

This week’s virtual Engaged Learning Forum tackled “Mental Health Challenges and Resources” during the COVID-19 pandemic. This particular ELF was tailored to give voice to the psychological experiences of both community partners and the clients they serve during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Debra Stanley, the founder of Imani Unidad, provided a personal narrative of how emotionally taxing it is to navigate virtual community engagement. Debra, and many of the community partners remarked on the pains of social distancing. Debra noted that it hurts to not be able to speak face to face, embrace, or do any of the natural people-based practices that are fundamental to building connections. Further, Debra shared her concerns about unclear information and intangible resources for both staff and clients on how they should protect themselves against COVID-19, which has led to uneasiness and paranoia. Debra also addressed the debilitating impact of lost resources such as unemployment and health care benefits, which are increasing stressors in the community, with a ripple adverse effects on clients' success in staying safe during this time. Many of her clients are already struggling with health issues that are now exacerbated by the layered impacts that COVID-19 has surfaced.

Lisa Anderson, who is an instructor at Notre Dame where she teaches classes about understanding and recovering from mental illness, and is the co-founder of the Clubhouse of St. Joseph County, emphasized the need to reach out as much as possible even if you’re unsure of clients’ situations and needs during this time. She provided the great reminder that most people during times of stress greatly benefit from hearing simple affirmations like, “you matter”, “ I care about you”, and “I want to support you anyway I can”. 

Another community partner from the Club House was able to share that offering remote services as much as possible while physically closed has helped in supporting clients' mental health drastically. But more than anything they need a fun and lighthearted disconnect from heavy COVID-19 conversations to maintain positive mental health. This also includes reminders of our basic humanity, light check-ins, and honest transparency of this being tough and complex for all of us. 

Stephen Lassen, who is a Professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Kansas Medical Center, provided clinical expertise to the session. He prompted community partners to remember that although the virus is straining resources, there are still tools at our disposal that we can  access to help clients and practitioners. He urged community partners to collaborate in mapping mental health resources that can be shared across organizations. There are available resources that should be maximized that could help lessen the gap that is currently felt. 

Other resounding sentiments from the group discussion were that there needs to be a bigger focus on understanding the mental health toll for staff; substance abuse and child neglect are on the rise-- there needs to be more of an effort to target risk reduction; an intentional consideration of the impact COVID-19 on the service sector such as hair salons and child care centers. Within the service sector, an unexpected outcome of the impacts of COVID-19 is that clients are being more consistent with keeping contact and engaging with services. In this regard,  community partners have to consider creative community engagement strategies that are emerging from this time of quarantine and can be used to transform services going forward.


1-800-273-8255. We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-662-HELP (4357). The National Helpline provides 24-hour free and confidential referrals and information about mental and/or substance use disorders, prevention, treatment, and recovery in English and Spanish.

Talk, Text, and Video Therapy Options

A number of organizations allow ways to connect with licensed therapists by phone (talk, text, or video). These include: Betterhelp, Larkr, and Talkspace. Some include free resources such as therapist-led Facebook support groups and anxiety-relief resources through Talkspace.

The Medical News Network offers information on a variety of topics related to mental and physical health. The network also includes videos and commentary from a variety of trained therapists.

A wellness expert offers guidance on how to protect your psychological and emotional well-being during the pandemic. Recommendations include taking breaks from the news and naming fears about journaling.

McLean Hospital (the largest psychiatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School) offers a diverse set of resources related to mental health during COVID-19. Content hosted on the hospital’s website includes videos, recommended behaviors, fact sheets, and frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and its effect on mental health.

Health Care Toolbox provides resources for children and families coping with illness and injury. They have a set of resources to address the psychological and emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for children, families, and healthcare staff.

Psychology Today lists counselors, therapists, and support groups by neighborhood and city. Many listed therapists are currently providing video and phone sessions. Ask each therapist for more information.

Accurate information about the spread and impact of COVID-19 is a key resource for positive mental health during the pandemic. The Regenstrief Institute offers easy access to updated data on COVID-19 across Indiana, listed by county.



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