After COVID-19, we need more than just therapy


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At the beginning of Avengers: Endgame, there’s a surprisingly forward-looking scene. Captain America, the brave soldier who wears an indestructible shield, appears in civilian clothes as he leads a support group. He’s there to help survivors of the Snap, an event sparked by villain Thanos in which billions of people die without warning or explanation. Five years later, still affected by the sudden loss, the participants in the support group are looking for answers on how to live with their pain.

When a man says he’s just been on a first date, Captain America replies, “This is it. These are those brave little baby steps we have to take to become whole, try to make sense of it.”

Although the Marvel movie premiered in 2019, I’ve kept coming back to this scene since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The dimly lit room, the gloomy voices, the sign on the wall that reads: “Where are we going now that you’re gone?” It was a minute-long look at what healing might look like in an imaginary world shaped by mass death.

Well here we are, after at least four million unexpected deaths worldwidetrying to find a semblance of normalcy as COVID Worrying variants turn our expectations upside down. Investors and entrepreneurs have looked at the extent of this suffering and seen a business opportunity. In 2020, Investors have invested $ 2.4 billion in digital behavior therapy companies, many of which aim to adopt the therapy model of individual treatment and make it more accessible via virtual platforms. Some are trying to automate mental health care by using chatbots that talk to users about their emotions.

These connections can support us in vital ways.

These services are important and can be useful, but strange as it is, the support group in Endgame offers a model that is perhaps more realistic and meaningful. It demonstrates the irreplaceable value of peer support and community in dealing with disasters. As we get through the post-vaccination pandemic and learn about the emotional and psychological distress we still feel – along with our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers – we should prioritize some form of healing that is social Space is based on bonds and helps us to build new relationships.

These Connections cannot replace quality, accessible therapy, but they can support us in vital ways. They make us feel less alone, help us to process grief and trauma together, help solve practical or emotional challenges and bring communities closer together. We will continue to need this support as we face future trauma from climate change, and Research suggests that such social capital can lead to better mental health outcomes following disasters.

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While venture capital is investing billions of dollars in efforts that largely expand an infrastructure of paid services that keep people in silos with a therapist, behavioral trainer, chatbot, or automated tool, envision a large nationwide federal initiative to provide community-led assistance to fund groups. A small pilot project that brings self-help groups to farm workers could give a blueprint. In one format of these groups, trusted mental health professionals conduct wellbeing conversations with an emphasis on empowering participants to support one another rather than diagnosing them.

Educational workshops that help people get basic information about mental illness, how to identify signs and symptoms, and how to have empathic conversations should be another important element of the recovery resources available to all. We already have a model in Mental health first aid, a nationwide peer-reviewed Program that educates people about mental health and wellness. However, the workshop is often targeted to first responders, teachers, social workers and other professionals who are more likely to encounter people with mental illness or crisis. Increased access to and knowledge of MHFA could greatly improve people’s ability to understand their own mental health and be sensitive to others who are having difficulty.

With increased federal funding, community mental health centers, usually operated as small hospitals or therapy clinics, could serve as hubs for support groups and workshops. You could also add social programs that bring people together to enjoy hobbies and activities like baking and basketball. If this doesn’t sound like psychiatric care, says Dawn Belkin Martinez, assistant dean for Justice and Inclusion and clinical adjunct professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work.

“I think community is a healing intervention,” she says.

“I think community is a healing intervention.”

Belkin Martinez practices “Liberation Health” Philosophy of your work with students and customers. The goal is not just to help people cope better with stressors and mental illness. It is also designed to help them understand how the systems that run their lives – think capitalism, structural racism, misogyny, etc. – affect their wellbeing and then take action to change these external conditions while keeping the negative messages about to deconstruct their self. Value that they have internalized as a result. By adopting a different framework for viewing their problems while using community networks and support to thrive, they can show a way forward.

Unfortunately, this is missing in many therapy experiences. Belkin Martinez says traditional training does not teach therapists how to collaboratively identify and discuss the links between mental health and sociopolitical factors. Psychology as a worker too is not diverse, which means therapists can be culturally incompetent depending on their client’s background. In particular, people of color, people with disabilities and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender who have sought help but struggled with stereotypes or discrimination know this obstacle well.

Although talented therapists and psychiatrists have valuable skills and knowledge, not everyone wants such treatment, they can’t either afford or access it. A longstanding defect from mental health providers makes appointments tight, especially since they are now assigned Increased demand. The issues we face in terms of affordability, access, and quality cannot be answered with Internet therapy that boomed during the pandemic. Some may prefer anonymity and convenience but still cannot find the right therapist for them.

Church leaders develop creative approaches to the problem of quality and access. Take for example PyschoHairapy, “a program that certifies hairdressers and stylists in providing “culturally informed mental health first aid”. Founded by a black clinical psychologist who is also a natural hairstylist, the program trains participants in “micro-counseling” skills such as active listening, mindfulness and narrative therapy.

The organization Estoy Aquí (I’m there) aims to help Latino / Latinx and black communities in western Massachusetts with a “community care” model of suicide prevention called. to reach La Cultura Sana, or Culture heals. The founder, Ysabel Garcia, told me that the model focuses on breaking down factors such as systemic racism and white supremacy, which she believes contribute to the risk of suicide and mental health issues. Starting in August, Garcia plans to offer workshops for Latino / Latinx and Black companies that also serve as a communal meeting point, such as hair salons, bodegas and laundromats. Her hope is that through mental health awareness training, business owners and their employees will be better able to identify signs of emotional distress, know what cultural strengths to use to support others, and with thoughtfulness and stress Sensitivity to respond.

Some will still need the expertise of therapists and psychiatrists, especially as we learn more about that mental illness and psychosis that can accompany a COVID-19 infection. But think about what could happen if the private sector and government invested in us, ordinary people who need community after tragedy and who love and want to help their neighbors, colleagues, friends and family, but often don’t have expertise.

We don’t really need Captain America, but we could really use each other.


If you want to talk to someone or have thoughts of suicide, Line of crisis text offers free, confidential support around the clock. Send CRISIS to 741741 to be connected with a crisis advisor. make contact NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI, Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm ET, or by email [email protected]. You can also call National lifeline for suicide prevention at 1-800-273-8255. Here is a list international resources.

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About Ellen Lewandowski

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