The fallout: Mental health needs surge during the pandemic
Local organizations like Building Hope Summit County, the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and the Summit Community Care Clinic have resources to help
Shutdowns, mandatory quarantines, physical distancing and canceled events forced Americans across the country to isolate themselves more so than any other year in recent history. The result is what some experts are calling the second wave of COVID-19 — a mental health pandemic.
Summit County is not immune to this mental health crisis. People across the county struggled to adapt to isolation along with constantly changing rules and expectations, causing an uptick in demand for mental health resources.
“Our lives were changed and impacted significantly by the pandemic when it first started,” Building Hope Summit County mental health provider Kellyn Glynn wrote in an email. “We went through a lot as individuals, families, a community and globally.”
One such individual who faced mental health challenges this year was Breckenridge resident Travis Bickford. He was still grieving the loss of his wife who died five years ago by suicide when his brother died due to medical complications in May 2020. Bickford said the losses, coupled with the isolation of the pandemic, made some days difficult to get through.
“I had to quarantine three different times,” Bickford said. “One time, my brother was still alive and shortly after that he wasn’t. I’m still grieving the loss of my wife, and my brother dies during all of this.
“It was tough. You couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. You had to quarantine, so what to do other than sit at home, watch reruns of (”I Love Lucy“) and drink beer. You do that for two weeks straight, and then you go back to work, and then you have two more weeks of quarantine.”
Bickford said the thing that helped him the most was focusing on his work at Ace Sewer and Drain.
“Work grounds me,” Bickford said. “I could win the Powerball tomorrow and I’d still work. Mentally, I have to. I’m not the type that goes hiking and all of that. Work is my foundation, so to speak.”
For most of the pandemic, Bickford said he tried to focus on work and on his 5-year-old son, Trent, up until a month ago, when he felt like he could “let his guard down” and feel the emotions he’d been suppressing.
“I had a breakdown a month ago,” Bickford said. “I got placed on a 72-hour hold, and I think that was the right choice. I was not in a good (place). Just the weight of the world came upon me, it felt like.”
Since then, he said he started going to therapy and focused more on his mental health. Throughout the pandemic, Bickford said he relied on the help of family and friends in addition to Building Hope and said his workplace was flexible when he needed to take care of his son.
In fact, his work was a big contributing factor in keeping his spirits lifted. Bickford said his work helped keep him grounded and that it gave him a reason to get up on time and gave him something to do when so many activities and events were put on pause. And when he was in the hospital, Bickford said another staff member helped take care of his son before another family member could take over.
To get a closer look at the various populations impacted by the mental health crisis, local organizations, including Building Hope, collected data and used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for guidance.
Ravi Jaishankar, mental health program coordinator for Building Hope, said the organization has a scholarship program that offers 12 free sessions of therapeutic care to those who live or work in Summit County and are unable to pay for therapy or have a high deductible insurance plan. Jaishankar said the program increased in popularity in the middle of last year.
“We did see a spike in scholarships issued during the May (to) August 2020 time frame when COVID pressures caught up with folks, and they sought out mental health care in much higher numbers,” Jaishankar wrote in an email. “I recall this being a very tough period of time during my work at Building Hope as I am the main contact for folks seeking support and referrals. Beyond that, scholarship issuing has been higher than in 2019.”
According to the data Jaishankar provided, 40 scholarships were issued in March 2020 and 72 were issued in May 2020. In total, Building Hope gave out 611 scholarships last year, which includes 77 more than were given in 2019.
As for the kinds of people seeking care, Jaishankar said Building Hope saw an increase across the board, including adolescents and children ages 7-12 between May and August 2020. That time frame also saw spikes in the organization’s two largest age-based demographics, which encompass people ages 26-45. Jaishankar said Building Hope saw spikes in older populations, too.
In all, Jaishankar said women used the scholarship program significantly more between May and August 2020.
In addition to Building Hope’s scholarship program, the organization also offers services, like hosting free connection events and other programs like The Hype, an event series focused on youths ages 12-20. The organization offers mental health training and a peer support program, including a non-crisis line staffed by trained volunteers.
Other local organizations, like the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and the Summit Community Care Clinic also offer a robust list of mental health services. The resource center can help connect individuals to therapists, inpatient treatment, community resources and support groups, and drug or alcohol treatment as well as assist with the cost of therapy and prescriptions. The care clinic has a licensed behavioral health team of professional counselors, clinical social workers, addiction counselors and more.
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 Office SMART program: Call 970-423-8922 from 8 a.m. to midnight daily.
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