Are you OK? Who expected to see snow on Saturday or plagues of biblical proportions? And, with NH COVID19 restrictions about to start relaxing, we face a whole litany of new-to-us questions that involve venturing out near others. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and while it has been around since 1949, this is likely the first time people all across the planet are asking questions about crowd size, second wave pandemic infection along with overthinking personal and self-inflicted terrors.
For all of those reasons, it seemed like a good time to sit down with Rebecca Sartor, Executive Director, The Counseling Center of New England. With more than 145 practitioners covering 18 locations across New Hampshire and reaching to Portland and Brunswick, Maine, she is in a good position to net out the concerns and the actions people could take after experiencing –and while still experiencing – the many moods and feelings that work from home and stay at home have engendered.
Like so many other organizations, CCNE went from discussing implementation of telehealth and video conferencing to 100 percent virtual literally overnight. They proudly point to a rapid and complete transformation in just two weeks, reaching out early to existing patients and adding capacity to handle the nearly thousand new patients a month in this period of unique need. Especially included are healthcare workers, first responders and essential personnel across a range of job types. Rebecca emphasized the new leadership’s role in enabling the rapid changes. She called this telehealth transformation the “rip the band-aid off approach” and it came with unanticipated benefits like seeing clients in their home settings with their family pets, stuffed animals and other background signals that gave an immediate lens into creating stronger therapeutic alliances.
As in many of the pandemic stories I showcase, the barriers to access have actually decreased when you look beyond the headlines.
Key takeaways from Rebecca and the CCNE experience:
- The transformation of their counseling services opens new doors to providing support virtually & in-person.
- The perceived barriers that once existed when ripped away turned out not to be so insurmountable.
- Both providers and clients will have much more gratitude when they once again sit together in shared physical space.
When it comes to mental health awareness, If you or a loved one or co-worker is experiencing symptoms of depression or stress, reach out the moment you feel the need for support.
Watch for these symptoms:
- Sleep disturbance
- Change in functional status (like can’t get out of bed in the morning/can’t seem to get things done)
- Feelings of hopelessness or fear.
You don’t need to live with negative emotions or cope in negative ways. Don’t wait. Reach out early as that help is most valuable. Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, you should find simplified access to health care. I received a lovely note the day after our communicast session from Rebecca and want to share her sentiment with readers as I truly believe the importance of her message- not to hesitate but to reach out at the first signs of anxiety in these stressful times.
“I want the NH community to know that we are here, we are open, and want them to reach out for support and not struggle in silence. We have made and continue to make improvements to streamline access to care for our existing and new patients. We continue to recruit and expand to better meet the needs of the population we treat. We hope to build partnerships and streamlined referral processes for our colleagues in the healthcare industry to improve access for not only patients they treat, but providers on the frontline.”
Rebecca K. Sartor, LICSW
The Counseling Center of New England
To request a first-time appointment, visit their website: www.counselingcenter or contact one of their intake coordinators at (603) 689-7890.