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How to work on your family’s mental health one year into the pandemic

Mental Health
Posted at 5:20 AM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 10:46:32-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — We're approaching the one year mark of the pandemic and we're still dealing with zoom calls, social distancing and virtual classrooms. This can really take a toll on your mental health, so we asked experts for advice.

“I’m seeing it as almost like a marathon where people are starting to hit the wall," said Dr. Wendy Weinstein, Psychiatrist and Unit Chief at BryLin Hospitals in Buffalo.

It's especially tough on students.

“A lot of parent calls, kids can’t get out of bed, not getting out of their rooms, not eating, not having good hygiene, failing classes," said Kelli Cookfair, LMSW, School Social Worker at Maryvale.

That’s why Maryvale middle and high school teamed up with Compeer Buffalo to start focusing on students mental health. Every Wednesday is devoted to social and emotional learning.

"Helping students and families see there’s support, there’s coping skills, there’s different things that we can do to help us through those tough times because they’re not forever," said Cookfair.

Four compeer mentors meet with 27 students to work on mental health issues and they’re already seeing success.

"They’ve got this great role model they’ve got friendships developing. Parents are relieved their kids aren’t going unnoticed this year," said Ashleigh Cieri, MSW, Director of Youth Services at Compeer Buffalo.

Let’s talk mental health numbers.

  • 1 in 5 Americans will live with a mental illness in their lifetime
  • 22% of Americans will have a diagnosable mental illness before they’re 18
  • Only 40% of people struggling with mental health issues seek treatment

“Who can they turn to if they’re not seeking out that professional and sometimes people don’t need a professional," said Katie Walsh, MSW, Director of Mental Health Education.

So parents-- if you don’t have that in school resource, Compeer offers FREE mental health first aid courses to help your students cope.

Compeer hosts mental health first aid courses
Compeer hosts mental health first aid courses

"We practice so you know what to look for when assessing for any type of risk of suicide or harm, you’ll learn de-stigmatizing language," said Walsh.

Courses are 8-hour virtual training sessions about helping adults or teens, think of it like a CPR class for mental health. 4,500 people in WNY have taken it so far, according to Compeer. They recommend it for anyone working with kids or with a lot of personal interaction.

But as you focus on helping your students, don’t forget about yourself, especially you, Moms.

"I shouldn’t bother to worry about this because I have to take care of my family, this shouldn’t be an issue for me because everyone is going through it and what I tell people, especially women is don’t devalue your feelings," said Weinstein.

We all can encounter mental health challenges on any given day at any point in our life, according to Compeer. There are resources out there to help you and there are ways we can help each other.

"We didn’t come this far to only come this far, we’ve been doing this for a long time, but we have really made it work and there’s hope," said Cookfair.

Warning signs to look out for:

  • Low energy
  • Low motivation
  • Feelings of guilt

Quick changes you and your family can make right now:

  • Waking up and going to bed earlier
  • Getting outside now that we have more sunlight
  • Opening up that line of communication, calling friends and family more and talking about how you feel, because someone else might feel the same
  • Knowing when to put the phone down and the work away
  • Take breaks, often

To sign up for mental health first aid courses, click here.

You can reach Crisis Services 24-hour crisis hotline for Buffalo and Erie County at (716) 834-3131.