Official Covid-19 Response from NAMI-Greater Houston, April 9, 2020
This is sort of like a Bob Dylan song of old – Idiot Wind
“Now everything’s a little upside down
As a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good
You’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom”
BUT NAMI is here, there and everywhere. (The Beatles) In the last two weeks we have converted ALL our support groups and classes into virtual format. We are grateful to the George Foundation for underwriting our technology improvements. We are grateful to the Rockwell Fund for continuing our operating grant into 2021. We appreciate the help that the Frost Bank has provided us in processing our Payroll Protection Loan/Grant – so that the staff can continue to work tirelessly – with security. Our work in making MAY 30th a National Mental Health for All Virtual Walk goes forward. We are so grateful that the staff and the volunteers of NAMI Greater Houston have risen to the challenge, and that our efforts are being recognized. Today, Congressman Pete Olsen delivered a Recognition Certificate for our contributions to the Covid-19 crisis.
Today, we released a care outreach assessment of needs to 1000 members and recipients of NAMI services. We will evaluate the assessment to determine the areas of most need for our community going forward. Please respond if you have received this assessment. Our intentions and mission remain clear – Early Identification and Intervention, Access to Care, and Decarceration of Mental Illness.
There is no better time to act creatively and purposefully. We accept physical distancing; we will never accept social isolation. WE all belong.
Neal Sarahan, Executive Director
As COVID-19 concerns are impacting our workplaces as well as our every day lives, we recognize that out of an abundance of caution, many companies are moving to work-from-home as an option or a mandate. As many of our NAMI corporate and brand partners prepare for these contingency work plans, we at NAMI encourage understanding of potential consequences to employees, partners and associates who may have mental health vulnerabilities.
For many with mental health vulnerabilities, uncertainty and the potential impact of isolation may be particularly challenging. What we know is that informal and formal, both direct and gentle communication can be beneficial, and communication transparency and frequency may help mitigate worry and assist in establishing comfort.
Please see our website at www.namigreaterhouston.org for updates on programs, services, and events.
Tips and tactics
Here we offer a few additional tips and suggestions for you to consider when evaluating and crafting your own contingency plans.
- To help overcome uncertainty, normality and routine that mirrors the office life’s daily patterns and practices can be helpful. Encouraging remote employees and partners to create a structured, dedicated work environment and build in self-care as well as daily benchmarks of achievement.
- Structure and routine may be helpful for people with mental health vulnerabilities, especially during times of uncertainty. Encourage employees and partners to maintain a regular routine with the work hours that are usually worked, including keeping up with morning rituals. Dressing in regular work attire and taking regular breaks, including lunch time, may also be helpful.
- Research highlights the benefits of exercise to improving mental, physical and cognitive health. Scheduling some activity into your day will benefit your work from home experience. This can include something as simple as a 10-minute walk. Walking outside, and walking with another person, enhances these cognitive benefits.
- Encourage employees and partners to be mindful about working too little or too much. Resisting the temptations of household chores, binge news watching or entertainment as well as the urge to work late into the night can be helpful.
- Promote easy access to one another. Share your cell phone numbers with one another, transfer your work phone to your cell and keep the status bar of your availability updated on Skype or Teams. Keep your digital work calendar up to date with meetings and time away from work (doctor appointments, vacation time, etc.) and allow for sharing to promote open communication.
- Research tells us that 7% of communication is accomplished through our words, including email. 38% is voice and a staggering 55% is body language and visual. For people with mental health vulnerabilities, and even for those with extroverted personalities, the lack of face time can be challenging. Using technology to simulate this can offer a solution to bridging this gap. Be mindful of opportunities to integrate video into your conversations with colleagues. Consider using the video function on Skype or Teams for internal and external meetings.
- Taking steps to mitigate the potentially negative impacts of social isolation can be a proactive approach to promoting self-care. This may be especially important for those who live alone. Encourage employees and partners to schedule short “water cooler” video calls with their work colleagues, including checking in on one another as they would in the office. Use technology for informal texting when appropriate as an additional strategy. If you are a manager, keep, or if you don’t have, set, regular check-in times with your team, collectively, to reinforce the benefits of team, in this case the new virtual team.
- Encourage collaboration. Ask for advice from full-time remote colleagues. Many of them have been working remotely, successfully, and they may be happy to help encourage others with their tips and strategies that may help.
- Encourage self-care, including medical care. Many people with mental health conditions, and other health conditions, rely on medications as a key component to treatment and health management. Concerns about adequate supply or ability to obtain refills can be addressed. Employers can anticipate, and strive to address, the need if an employee or partner encounters barriers with healthcare supplies, healthcare access or prescriptions.
- If a company has telehealth benefits, these can be invaluable resources. Remind employees and partners of the medical and mental health care options that are available, especially those remotely accessed, as well as EAP, nurse care telephone access and other benefits.
- Remember NAMI. Many NAMI Affiliates are continuing to provide no-cost NAMI support group and education programs either in person, where allowable, and many via video or teleconference where in-person events have become a challenge. NAMI offers NAMI Basics, our no-cost education program for parents and caregivers of youth and young adults, at no cost, online and on demand. The NAMI HelpLine is adapting to ensure that our vital services are available to those in need regardless of Coronavirus implications, and the NAMI website and social channels provide information and inspiration at any time. You can encourage your employees and partners to contact us at nami.org, firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-950-NAMI (6264) for information, support or referral to nearby NAMI Affiliates and other services, and/or visit us on a social channel — FB:@NAMI, T/IG: @NAMICommunicate, or via one of our story sharing platforms, YouAreNotAlone or OK2Talk.
Additional, creative suggestions to promote connectivity
Some companies appreciate ideas on creative ways to send support and stay connected to employees. These are businesses that are also NAMI partners, supporting our movement.
- Things are chaotic in communities right now, and flow and typical schedules are disrupted. Consider sending your team something fun, like slime, as a stress reliever and something fun to set a positive tone.
- While everyone is working remotely, think about doing a “best home office” photo contest, or favorite home office pet content. Do a prize like a weighted blanket, or a gift card.
- Consider sending a box to team leads who are going above and beyond during the time of flux and disruption.
Suggested news articles to explore further
- VICE (3.5.20) – How to Deal With Coronavirus If You Have OCD or Anxiety
- Rolling Stone (3.4.20) – Coronavirus Is Wreaking Havoc On Our Mental Health
- Today (3.3.20) – How to survive coronavirus anxiety: 8 tips from mental health experts
- CBS This Morning, via YouTube (3.10.20)—How to manage anxiety over Coronavirus
- CNBC (3.10.20)—WHO gives advice on handling mental health toll from the Coronavirus
We appreciate our partners and the support you provide that helps us ensure that our vital services and supports are available. Please let us know if we can be helpful.
Dr. Neal Sarahan
NAMI Greater Houston