Counseling Center

September 29, 2020

Covid-19 Mental Health Outreach & Prevention: Building a Community of Care

Posted by Andrea Salazar-Nuñez, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, UWCC

COVID-19 Mental Health Outreach and Prevention

Building a community of care

As students, faculty, and staff begin a new academic year the experience will be like no other year before it. Due to the pandemic and other sociopolitical factors, mental health needs will be incredibly important to prioritize and attend to. This quarter and academic year will be filled with unique experiences and stressors many of which will impact our mental health. There are many things that we can do to support ourselves and one way is connect with our community and support each other. Building a culture of care on our campus and within our community will provide us with the buffer and resilience needed to manage our mental health as well as help prevent major mental health crises. If we help each other, we help ourselves.

Consider some of the ideas below to build into your routine and help strengthen our campus community and build a culture of community-care.

Check in

  • Find time to check-in with people about how they are doing and their capacity to work. This may help “take the temperature” of the folks or students you are working with, allowing you to gauge where their energy is at so adjustments can be made accordingly.

Support each other

  • Consider ways in which adjustments can be made to be responsive to individuals and group feelings of overwhelm. Some examples include:
    • More transition time
    • Mindful of multiple roles (e.g., working parents, student parents)
    • Shared working spaces

Flexibility

  • As the academic year continues there may be varying levels of stress and demands, so the need to be flexible may increase.
    • Due to illness, political climate, varying levels of productivity, family financial circumstances
    • Consider points in the quarter when you may need to ask for more time or may need to offer more time for a project, assignment, or task

Be creative

  • Find different ways of doing routine tasks.
  • Use technology, like apps or media, to create more engaging virtual spaces.
  • Use the different functions (e.g., clapping/thumbs up, chat, backgrounds) of your video chat platform to enhance the experience.

Value social engagement

  • Use ice breakers even if you know the group.
  • Hold virtual “water cooler” hours.
  • Incorporate small group work for students or staff.
  • Have regularly scheduled social hours with family and friends.

Hold space and be responsive to our different experiences

  • A useful metaphor to keep in mind for the COVID-19 pandemic is:
    • The pandemic is like a storm that has flooded the globe and we are all surviving by floating on different flotation devices. For some the flotation device is large and safe, like a yacht, and for some it may be small, like a lifesaver ring, with most of our body in the water, struggling to stay afloat.
  • For some communities and individuals their circumstances have been impacted more significantly than others and developing a community of care and responsiveness for different circumstances is critical to providing equitable support.

Body/Mind connection   

  • Find ways to engage your body to help support your mind.
    • Set the computer high and stand for a meeting or class
    • Breathing exercises before meetings or classes
    • Yoga stretches throughout the day
    • Fidget toys for classes and meetings
    • Taking a walk mid-day