During the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on one’s mental health is more important than ever. But there can be challenges. A Renewed Mind’s CEO Matthew Rizzo say the key is to anchor, plan and act.
By Melinda Falconi, OhioGuidestone Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant
Are your kids driving you crazy? Your second grader, who is so proud of being a “big boy” and has been sleeping in his own bed since he was two, has been insisting on sleeping with you. Your preschooler, who was potty trained before age three, has been having toileting accidents throughout the day and wets the bed a couple of times a week. Your toddler, who used to be an independent little guy, has been wrapping himself around your leg and melting down if you leave the room without him. To make it worse, you’re exhausted with all of this “togetherness” during the pandemic; you’re struggling to transition gradually from working at home to returning to the office two days a week; and, more than anything else, you’d love to be able to send the kids back to school and daycare so you don’t have to listen to your fifth grader say she’s bored, she misses her friends, and may she be excused from the table because she’s really not hungry.
Stop and take a breath. If you’re feeling stressed, exhausted, confused and worried because of the life changes that have been the result of the pandemic, know that your children are experiencing overwhelming emotions, too. The free floating anxiety in the house is eroding their sense of safety, and your own very legitimate stress seems to be pulling you farther away from them when they need to keep you close. Problems with sleeping and eating, toileting accidents, and increased “clinginess” and separation anxiety are all signs of stress. They signal that your children aren’t able to manage their big feelings without your help. The kids don’t understand what’s happening (except that a lot of people are getting shots). They can’t trust that it won’t last forever.
What can you do to help them?
- Be with them.
- Play with them.
- Reconnect with them emotionally.
- Name their feelings (and yours).
Working together to tame the stress and worry will make your house a safe haven again. Pull your children close and assure them that this scary time will end. That will help you feel better, too.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, it took a toll on our Workforce 360° Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP) in Geauga County. Several work sites shut down to prevent the spread of the virus, leaving participants without many options to continue building their skills. Resilient as ever, they decided to turn the situation into an opportunity to give back to their community.
Over the summer, 11 participants spent more than 2,000 hours making 1,150 “mismatched” masks to donate to local hospital systems. Now, as we move into the vaccination phase of this global health crisis, our CCMEP youth are once again stepping in to fill a need. When the Geauga County Health Department put out a call for help with vaccine distribution, three CCMEP participants immediately answered. Initially, they started out as greeters – welcoming individuals and putting them at ease as they arrived for their vaccines – but quickly evolved into so much more. From calling names for appointments, to sanitizing chairs and monitoring people after they receive their shots, they are doing it all.
“These guys are great! They are self-starters,” said Tom Quade, Geauga County Health Commissioner. “They came up with the idea of sanitizing chairs between clinic groups and did it themselves. At another clinic, we had an issue with someone who didn’t feel well. Without prompting, they moved chairs away from that person and assisted with assuring their privacy.”
What started out as a commitment for only a few days a week quickly grew into these participants working three to four days consistently, at nearly 10 vaccine sites across Geauga County. “I know I am helping people in need and I love it,” one participant said. This is the first collaboration of its kind in the state of Ohio between CCMEP youth and a county health department. The hope is to continue this partnership throughout the entire vaccination process and expand the relationship in the future beyond vaccine distribution during COVID-19.
“These three young men are really making a dent in their county by helping out the way they are,” said Kim Brown, OhioGuidestone Regional CCMEP Program Manager for Lake and Geauga Counties. “It helps our youth build a relationship between them and the county that makes a difference in their lives.”
The Institute of Family and Community Impact (IFCI), OhioGuidestone’s center of excellence for clinical research and quality performance, has remained committed to advocating for the individuals the agency serves and their communities, even throughout this global pandemic. Among IFCI’s recent highlights are several trail blazing initiatives.
Father’s Feelings Study Expansion
“Becoming a new dad can be both exciting and overwhelming at the same time,” said Lindsay Williams, OCTF’s Executive Director “However, most people don’t think about providing postpartum support for fathers.”
The Father’s Feelings study is responsive to the needs of dads with infants under one year old. It combines short questionnaires, used to facilitate casual conversations about new dads’ experiences, and father-centered brief study visits designed to improve caretaking strengths and parent child relationships. This includes utilization of the agency’s proprietary play-based research model, Joyful Together®, which lowers parental stress and increases childhood resiliency through playing games.
Presenting at AMCHP 2021
The IFCI team will present and discuss the Joyful Together® clinical innovation and the Father’s Feelings project at the national conference of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) in May. AMCHP focuses on work connected to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB).
Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic
To date, IFCI has sent out more than 100 copies of the free, proprietary telehealth phone tool the agency developed for behavioral health providers.
The team has received requests from clinicians across the country, from California to Connecticut. Meanwhile, the team has also revved up their research activities in this remote environment, thanks to OhioGuidestone’s Web Developer, Trinity Hinton, and the new online Research Portal. Currently, three major studies are underway at IFCI.
Addressing Toxic Stress of Poverty and Racism
IFCI recently published a white paper titled Preventing Harm and Deaths from Racism and Poverty: The Need to Eradicate Sources of Toxic Stress in Communities to Improve Public Health.
Racism and poverty are two major drivers of toxic stress, which harms families and communities across the United States. This stress can lead to a large number of adverse health effects and outcomes, particularly in children, causing long-term health issues and even reducing life expectancy.
To read all of the IFCI white papers, please visit: www.familyandcommunityimpact.org/white-papers.
OhioGuidestone’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Ben Kearney recently shared his thoughts on the “post-vaccine” regular world facing Ohioans.
The ripple effect of the immense loss of the past 12 months will be felt for years, but there is optimism about embracing new workforce development and inequities in the system.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, across the globe, including children. OhioGuidestone therapist Kristina Ryan and other health experts explain how behavior changes in kids can give off warning signs.
Click here to read the article from Cleveland.com.
Assistant Director Courtney Yergin recently joined journalist Harry Boomer to discuss OhioGuidestone’s past, present, and future!
Click here to watch the interview from the CW43 Focus show.
OhioGuidestone’s Assistant Director Courtney Yergin explains the impact on our mental health.
Click here to watch the story from Karlynn Wells with Spectrum News 1.
OhioGuidestone’s Denise Meyer survived the virus and has a warning for others like her.
Click here to watch the story from Mike Brookbank and News 5 Cleveland.
Click here to watch her interview during the “Mommy Moment” segment with Chief Meteorologist Ashlee Baracy from WBNS-TV in Columbus.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the state, many holiday gatherings will be smaller or non-existent this year. This can be especially troubling for people struggling with mental health, addiction, or substance use disorders.
Regional Director Wendy BeMiller explains how you can cope during these difficult times.
Click to watch Wendy’s appearance on Good Day Columbus on WTTE FOX 28.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has cost many people their jobs, leaving them with uncertain futures. Now, Nonprofit workforce development groups are facing an influx of job seekers with a variety of different backgrounds.
At OhioGuidestone, our Workforce 360° program has been resilient and flexible, even providing Chromebooks to our participants to stay connected.
Click here to read the article from Crain’s Cleveland Business.
Click here for the PDF version.
OhioGuidestone is offering free job training and career coaching for young adults in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, through our Workforce 360° Programs.
Watch and read the story from Homa Bash and News 5 Cleveland.
At OhioGuidestone, our mental health experts are doing what they can to fight isolation and continue providing necessary services during the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes expanding and revamping telehealth services to stay connected to the people we serve.
Click here to read more from Cleveland.com.
For the safety of those we serve, our staff and our donors, we are not accepting in-kind donations through at least October 31. Our donation center on our main campus will remain closed and no donors will be permitted at any of our locations until further notice.
How can I support OhioGuidestone during this time?
The first day of school is right around the corner, so instead of collecting the traditional school supplies, we are encouraging our donors to donate store gift cards. This will allow our parents to have the opportunity to purchase supplies that meet their children’s individual needs.
Will you still be doing a traditional Thanksgiving food drive?
We are putting a new spin on this as well. When shopping for your own special holiday meal, consider purchasing a Walmart or grocery store gift card for our families in need. We will collect gift cards to be distributed to those who need it the most this holiday season.
What are other ways I can help the individuals, children and families of OhioGuidestone?
Go to our website and make an online donation to support our work in the community. We encourage you to consider becoming a monthly donor to join us in helping those we serve on their new paths throughout the entire year.
Gift cards or checks can be mailed to:
Attn: Advancement Department
434 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017
Our Junior Board has been coming up with creative ways to support OhioGuidestone during this challenging time. In April, they spearheaded a positivity parade with the Berea Police and Corvette Cleveland to bring cheer to the kids on our Residential Treatment Campus. They even sponsored a taco bar from Baldwin Wallace University for the entire campus (kids and staff)! In June, they held a successful fundraiser with Jo Jo Carloni’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, raising $582.35 for OhioGuidestone.
The Junior Board is looking for new members! They meet virtually every third Monday of the month and would love to have new young professionals join the group. Please contact OhioGuidestonejb@gmail.com for more information.
Thousands of people across the state have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, many of them are facing the daunting task of looking for work; in some cases, they are facing unemployment for the first time in several years. Seeing the critical need for assistance in job searching, OhioGuidestone’s Workforce 360° Career Coaches are taking extra steps to support those we serve, helping them get on the path to meaningful, long-term employment.
“This is an unprecedented time in our country for public health, mental health and the economy,” said Kiersten Watkins, OhioGuidestone’s Assistant Vice President of Program Administration. “While some jobs have come back, others have been eliminated or are still in danger of being eliminated as COVID-19 persists. It can be a stressful and difficult time for individuals and families. Our goal is to be a resource to make things easier.”
Whether someone has experience or is a first time job seeker, Workforce 360° Career Coaches are working with them to navigate this new environment with job searches and interview preparations. It’s important for people to know they are not alone and while the job search may be intimidating, having experience isn’t always the only selling point for employers.
“It’s important to teach people about transferable skills,” said Advancement Coach Christine Hairston. “Even though an applicant may not have direct experience for the job they are applying for, they still have assets to contribute to the company. We want people to ‘sell’ their skills.”
Many Workforce 360° Career Coaches have created videos on the do’s and don’t’s of interviewing, and the key to making a strong impression. This has allowed them to stay connected and share information with those we serve and the community at large during this time.
Businesses have been forced to serve customers in new ways. Schools are facing an uncertain future, trying to balance virtual and in-person learning. People are wearing masks and social distancing whenever possible – the new normal we are all facing across Ohio. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll, both physically and mentally.
“People have so many additional stressors, like working from home, parenting full time while trying to work full time or teaching children while trying to work,” said Wendy BeMiller, OhioGuidestone’s Regional Director of Central Ohio. “These are new for most and trying to balance all of these at once is stressful and exhausting.”
These factors, combined with the distance and isolation brought on by COVID-19, can be especially difficult for those struggling with mental health or substance use disorders. OhioGuidestone, understanding the importance of maintaining access to behavioral health care during this time, quickly pivoted at the onset of the pandemic to meet the needs of those we serve by expanding telehealth services across the state. To date, OhioGuidestone has provided more than 50,000 hours of telehealth services, with close to 10,000 hours in June alone!
Telehealth has helped clients to stay on the path to recovery. Tyliah Slappy, a single mother of three in the Columbus area, lost her job during the pandemic. Thanks to the virtual technology of telehealth, she remains connected to her support staff.
“It’s not only been helpful to keep me sober, but also to stay positive,” says Tyliah. “It is critical for my mental health priorities to remain in order, and to sustain a stable mindset. I take a breath, I realize my reality, and then
try to focus on what’s important because it’s easy to get off track and easy to get distracted.”
Tyliah’s journey hasn’t been easy, but she is not alone. The 24-year-old has made tremendous strides since beginning treatment with OhioGuidestone. This past May, she graduated from the Franklin County Domestic Relations Court’s Family Recovery program. The future of her family kept her focused.
“It made me more motivated in my recovery because I had my children waiting for me on the other side,” Tyliah said.
There are many people just like Tyliah who could easily relapse during this pandemic if not for the critical access to care made easily and conveniently available via telehealth.
“Since they don’t have to drive between sessions, clinicians are able to schedule appointments closer together and can often make arrangements for additional sessions if needed,” said BeMiller. “We have also found that telehealth is a valuable tool to use when running groups. Our clients are still able to interact with everyone in the group, while feeling safe in their home. This has helped them maintain their sobriety and focus on their recovery.”
Tyliah says remaining connected has made all the difference. “A big thanks to my treatment team for all of the awesome work that they are doing for my family. We remain socially distanced, but they are able to be a helping hand and make a difference in the community!”
In February of 2020, OhioGuidestone’s Workforce 360° participants were busy sketching out their plan for the new year. However, that quickly changed when COVID-19 hit the state and in-person classes came to a halt. As social distancing became the new norm, so did wearing masks. The critical need for masks in large quantities led to a unique and potentially life-saving endeavor.
The first call for help came from Lake Health Hospital – they needed hundreds of masks to accommodate visitors, patients and staff at their facilities. That plea landed at the Workforce 360° Comprehensive Case Management Employment and Training Program (CCMEP) in Geauga County.
“I was put in contact with a representative from the hospital, who told me of their situation,” said Kimberly M. Brown, OhioGuidestone’s Regional Program Manager for Lake and Geauga Counties. “My staff immediately contacted the individuals in our program, knowing this would be a wonderful and life changing experience.”
Eleven participants from CCMEP in Geauga County immediately volunteered to start making masks. It was their opportunity to help a community in need.
“When the pandemic started, I felt that there was nothing I could do,” said Hannah H, one of the participants. “However, when I saw that there was a desperate need for masks, it was clear that my peers and I could no longer sit back, so we decided to do something and help those in our community.”
The youth got a jump start thanks to a donation of three sewing machines and some material from Judy Breedlove of the East Geauga Kiwanis. It became a total team effort – some would cut out the pattern; others would sew the cutouts and elastic to make the masks.
The project quickly grew as demand increased, so the youth named their endeavor “Mismatched Masks” and took a big interest in the business side of things. The participants are in charge of pricing out material, elastic and the sewing machine needles. They even price shop to get the best deals and save money.
“They work as a team with the other participating youth on all aspects of the project,” said Brown. “It has become a great bonding experience to work together to help their community.”
Once the group fulfilled their initial commitment of 500 masks to Lake Health Hospital, the next call came in: 300 masks for staff at Geauga County Job and Family Services. So far, the CCMEP youth have made more than 800 masks, and they aren’t closing up shop! The group plans to continue “Mismatched Masks” as long as there is a need in the community.
“I have come to realize that this pandemic is not a time where we can sit back and watch; this is a time where we depend on each other and help those in need,” said Hannah. “I am so thankful that OhioGuidestone brought me this opportunity.”
This initiative has also reaffirmed the importance of CCMEP and Workforce 360°’s mission to provide supportive services focused on removing barriers to employment, giving participants the strength they need to transform their lives, improve their family income and achieve self-sufficiency –all while making a difference.
“Being put in charge of such a big project makes me feel like people view me as a leader and responsible person,” said Jessica K, one of the participants. “I am so glad to be part of this project during this time. Thanks to OhioGuidestone for coming up with the idea and thinking of us.”
Participant Kristina K added, “This opportunity has made me grow as a person while creating new hobbies and sewing friends.”
The upcoming school year will be very different for many kids, and for parents! 10TV in Columbus spoke with OhioGuidestone Regional Director and licensed professional clinical counselor Wendy BeMiller regarding the anxieties those parents are facing.
Watch and read more from WBNS.