Summit County officials talk about mental health during pandemic at town hall
It’s no secret that the pandemic has had an adverse effect on the mental health of people across the world.
In Summit County, Building Hope has been able to quantify some of the demand for resources, showing that the need for mental support in 2020 was much higher than that of the past two years.
At a Summit County Government town hall on Friday, Feb. 19, Kellyn Ender, program manager for Building Hope, presented on the nonprofit’s mental health scholarship program statistics.
According to the presentation, the number of therapy sessions utilized through the program in 2020 surpassed those in 2019. It reached a high in October with almost 450 sessions used through the program.
“When we were sort of in that thick of the shutdowns and the confusion and the uncertainty of what was going to happen, we saw a huge uptick of people reaching out for help and support,” Ender said.
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Ender said another possible explanation for the uptick in scholarships was financial hardships due to the pandemic. Many people lost their jobs over the course of 2020, leading to them being unable to afford therapy.
At the meeting, Ender also presented on the signs that someone is struggling with their mental health. Overall, the pandemic has made people more reactive and less able to manage their daily duties, she said.
However, poor mental health can also manifest in fixations with questions that a person wouldn’t be able to answer, like when is the pandemic going to end or what will life be like after it’s over?
“That’s a big sign that somebody is struggling when they can’t get out of that thought process,” Ender said. “We’ve all had those thoughts. They’re common thoughts for us to have but if you can’t bring yourself back and be able to ground and be able to focus and say ’what do I have control over?’ Instead of staying in that thought process.”
Ender said there are some simple things people can do to help get them out of negative thought processes. For example, she suggested people write “to-done lists,” which help them celebrate what they accomplished in a work day. She also suggested taking regular breaks to go outside, setting weekly goal lists and keeping a clean workspace.
At the meeting, Eleanor Bruin, chief behavioral health officer with the Summit Community Care Clinic, reported on what officials are seeing in the school-based health centers.
Bruin said the clinic has seen a “significant increase” in the number of adolescents and children who have been accessing behavioral health care.
Online learning and a prolonged amount of time in a situation that was always meant to be temporary leads to conflicts and stressors on family units, Bruin said.
“What we are noticing is that there has been an increase in anxiety, depression, crisis amongst children and adolescents and, in turn, a really big response of referral rates to our school-based physicians,” she said.
Those on the town hall also gave advice on how parents should support their kids. Bruin said one of the most important things to do is give teens and children the space to have their feelings.
“It’s just really creating space for allowing kids and adolescents to have feelings and validating them and creating those safe spaces,” she said.
Whether its children or adults, Ender, Bruin and Kelly McGann, the access to care manager at the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, all said that the services and resources provided through area nonprofits are a great place to start to receive care.
Building Hope alone provides scholarships for therapy services, a peer support program for people looking to connect and community events for both teens and adults.
The resource center offers mental health navigation, which guides people through the insurance and resources available when it comes to accessing mental health care.
For people who are in a serious crisis, the sheriff’s department’s mental health response team is able to help get people back on their feet. Through the program, the sheriff’s office has managed to make no arrests of people who are going through a mental health crisis, Lt. Daric Gutzwiller said.
24-hour crisis help:
• For life-threatening emergencies, call 911
• Colorado Crisis Services: call 844-493-8255 or text “talk” to 38255
• Building Hope Summit County peer support line: 970-485-6271, Option 2.
• Mind Springs Health: 970-668-3478 or MindSpringsHealth.org
• Colorado Crisis Services: ColoradoCrisisServices.org
• Safe2Tell: 877-542-7233, Safe2Tell.org or the Safe2Tell app
• Building Hope Summit County: BuildingHopeSummit.org
• Summit Community Care Clinic: 970-668-4040 or SummitClinic.org/index.php/care-services/behavioral
• Summit County Sheriff’s SMART program: Office personnel are available at 970-423-8922 every day from 8 a.m. to midnight.
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