Building Hope Summit County widens safety net with new support groups
The feeling of isolation has been exacerbated due to the coronavirus pandemic, so Building Hope Summit County wants to help anyone in need.
The local nonprofit provides virtual support groups that the public can attend free of charge with topics ranging from male mindfulness to expecting moms.
Funded mainly through Summit County 1A Strong Futures money, the groups might have a set curriculum or be more simple, guided discussions led by a therapist who makes sure it’s a safe space for everyone.
The group for new moms is held in conjunction with Summit County’s department of human services and Jane Thatcher Hahn of Grit Therapy. One week might be focused on tangible tips and tools from the county’s Women, Infants & Children nutrition program while the following week might have Hahn discussing mental health.
The new moms group was so popular and successful, now that the kids of the initial group are older, Building Hope has expanded into offering support for parents of toddlers, school-aged children, tweens and teenagers.
“It’s been a tough year, so it’s good having some extra spaces for people to just be able to get together and share their experience and process what’s been going on,” said Building Hope Executive Director Jennifer McAtamney. “… It was clear from the attendance numbers and the comments afterward that this was a really wonderful support to be able to provide for the community.”
There are other popular groups that aren’t focused on parenting. McAtamney says substance use has gone up during the pandemic, so Building Hope understands that a big need is to have a group for people who struggle with that issue. Additionally, Building Hope partnered with CrossFit Low Oxygen in Frisco to provide a free workout class for those in recovery.
“The Fit to Recover class is for anyone in recovery,” McAtamney said. “We would consider anyone in recovery a family member or friend of someone who is in recovery for substance use, but it can also be recovery from a mental health condition like depression or anxiety, as well. That word ‘recovery’ really covers a lot of different aspects in mental health these days.”
People who are recovering from physical injuries might be interested in Drew Mikita’s group, Surviving and Thriving: Injuries in the Mountains. In addition to the pandemic, active people can easily feel more alone as they deal with added pain and stress and have to refrain from their favorite sports and hobbies .
“Now you’re isolated from maybe your friends who you do things with like mountain biking or skiing, so you’re not able to see them, and then on top of that, exercise is a big connection for our mental and physical health, so being cut off from that can be really, really hard for folks,” McAtamney said.
Other support groups, called Reflect and Connect Cafes, are targeted for natural peers or a cohort of employees. This might be restaurant, government or front-line workers. The groups educate people on the mental health challenges they might be going through as a result of the pandemic and provide a space for them to open up about their experiences, including burnout.
McAtamney said the cafes have been very popular, with 195 sessions and 675 participants from May through December. The groups act as a jumping off point for resources, and attendees then take advantage of Building Hope’s other programs. Therapy scholarships grew by 30% last year, giving 611 people more than 4,000 free sessions in 2020.
McAtamney said part of that is the pandemic increasing stress and financial hardships paired with the increased awareness on the importance of mental health.
Those groups and other Building Hope programming will constantly be evaluated and adjusted through a partnership with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. Though still in the early stages, the two have been working together since September to share various tools, training and initiatives that strengthen mental health support in the region. Eagle County might be more convenient for outpatient care than Denver, or offer more privacy than options in Summit County.
McAtamney is preparing for the next series of programming, which will focus on anxiety related to looser pandemic restrictions and the reopening of businesses and activities. As people have become accustomed to standing 6 feet away from others, McAtamney said it’s going to take awhile for some people to be comfortable in crowded settings.
“We are creating support groups to provide a safety net for people in the community,” McAtamney said. “They’re there for them, they’re free, and I think if you try one out, you might find that you feel a little lighter on your feet.”
Groups for parents of kids ages 9-13 and 13-18 start in May. Visit BuildingHopeSummit.org for a full schedule of all support groups, including a curated list of virtual offerings from other entities, and information on how to sign up.
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