Mental Health Association goes virtual, out of ‘abundance of caution’

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Mental Health Association of Rochester made the decision to go fully virtual with their services on Tuesday. While many businesses and schools have had to close in-person services in areas of high COVID-19 transmission due to state mandate, the decision for this association to go remote was fully theirs, they say.

Melanie Funchess, the director of community engagement and family support services. She says the decision to go fully virtual with services was out of an abundance of caution.

“When the pandemic first hit and other people slowed down, our service never slowed down,” said Funchess. She says there is a demand right now, partly as a result to COVID-19 related stress, and added isolation due to social distancing.

“Our psych emergency room usage is up, our therapists’ number of visits is up, a lot of our therapists are getting maxed out in the number of clients they can take, we know there is a generalized increase in demand for our services across the board.” She says as we move forward, she anticipates this demand to rise even more.

According to a study done by the CDC, symptoms of Anxiety and Depressive Disorder increased considerably in the U.S. between April and June of 2020, compared to that same time frame in 2019.
But Funchess says with the increased demand for these services, the decision to go remote isn’t an easy one.

With this high demand, Funchess says the decision to go virtual isn’t easy, and will pose its challenges.

“People are used to seeing us, and you know if someone is in distress we were able to reach out, touch them, say ‘I see you,’ so we have to become very adapt at conveying those feelings through the video format, it can be done and we are doing it,” she said.

Funchess remains optimistic that they can still provide the same quality of services to those who need them, virtually.

“We are doing a small sacrifice now so we can have a long-term gain later, so we can be in the physical space together again … we talk about social distancing, we’ve actually been calling it physical distancing – we may be ‘physically distanced’ but we don’t have to be ‘socially distant,'” she said.

So when it comes to mental health struggles in the community, what are some way you can help?

“We have what we need to get through this together … If we all take that extra moment, extra five minutes to reach out and connect with one another, do that quick FaceTime, send those text messages, cute gifs, puppy pictures, whatever you need to do, reach out to people and make sure we check on each other,” she said.

Funchess says Zoom will be free for everyone on Thanksgiving day, and they have also lifted their 40 minute limit for calls.

If you are struggling and need help you can contact the association at 585-325-3145 or head over to their website. The association offers self-help drop-in services, life skills services, peer support services and more.

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