During the coronavirus stay-at-home advisory, it is all too common for people to experience a sense of vulnerability, immobilization and a loss of control. This is especially true for people facing mental health and substance use issues.
The Town of Falmouth, in partnership with numerous agencies, is working on providing solutions to those challenges but many coping strategies can be used individually, Falmouth Human Services director Suzanne Hauptmann said.
“The ways in which we can mitigate these feelings and reduce the level of psychological distress associated with that is to look for ways to increase our sense of security and safety, to increase ways in which we can feel a sense of predictability and routine, and to find opportunities to harness a sense of control,” she said.
These are the guiding principles of trauma-informed care, and people can introduce these factors into their daily lives.
“Simply by minimizing our exposure to the news, which can be very distressing and exacerbate those negative feelings, and by staying socially connected and practicing good self-care,” Ms. Hauptmann said. “And by having some light-hearted fun—laughter is a great antidote! Watch funny movies! Also, helping our neighbors gives us a sense of control and purpose, and small acts of kindness and giving allow us to pay attention to the positive during an otherwise stressful time.”
The human services department continues to be available to Falmouth residents during the COVID-19 crisis. While in-person appointments have been suspended, staff social workers are available by phone to assist with human service needs that arise during this crisis. Residents should call 508-548-0533 Monday through Friday, between 8 AM and 4:30 PM.
Additionally, the department has a weekly Zoom meeting with other community partners, including the Falmouth Service Center, the Falmouth Senior Center, the school department and the Reverend Nell Fields of Waquoit Congregational Church, who is representing the response efforts of local faith communities.
“This is done in an effort to efficiently update each other on logistics and changes in service delivery, identify unmet needs, consolidate and share resources, and identify residents who may be in need of additional services,” Ms. Hauptmann said.
Human services staff members are also keeping up to speed on emerging local, regional, state and federal resources, and they can offer assistance by phone in navigating through those resources.
“The department has fielded many calls related to accessing unemployment benefits. While we are not the agency that delivers those benefits, human services staff members have walked through the steps with callers and can offer personalized attention at this time. Many callers have expressed immense gratitude simply for being able to talk to a real person,” Ms. Hauptmann said.
In addition to taking calls, human services staff are making outreach calls to residents who have taken part in human services programs “to ensure that they have what they need and to offer a friendly voice during this difficult time,” Ms. Hauptmann said.
Along with the senior center, the human services department is taking calls from adult children concerned about their aging parents.
For those facing mental health issues, the department’s social workers continue to provide counseling to their current clients via telehealth methods.
A weekly support group for women that usually takes place at the Falmouth Senior Center continues to happen via Zoom and is providing a sense of normalcy and connection during this time of physical distancing. The group’s facilitator also calls to check on those participants who have difficulty managing the technology and cannot join the Zoom meeting, Ms. Hauptmann said.
Social workers are also available for residents who are not current clients and are in need of emotional support.
“If anyone is struggling, we encourage them to reach out,” Ms. Hauptmann said. “Their community is here for them and they are not alone. It’s so important to take care of our mental health during this time. We all need to practice the basics of good self-care, including good restorative sleep, drinking lots of water, maintaining any form of physical activity, stretching and yoga, connecting with friends and loved ones, and practicing self-compassion.”
While there can be pressure to “be productive” during this quarantine, Ms. Hauptmann said it is all right “simply to do our best to maintain good mental health and realize that we will get through this, that there is support out there and we don’t need to do this alone.”
While people are being asked to remain physically distant, they do not need to be socially distant, Ms. Hauptmann added.
“It is so important for us all to remain connected to each other during this time. The current crisis can be especially hard on those that struggle with depression and anxiety under normal circumstances. If you are aware of friends and loved ones who may be struggling, please reach out to them. A friendly check-in can go a long way toward reducing that sense of isolation and loneliness. And we recommend doing the same for caregivers—folks who are caring for aging parents or disabled family members—without the regular in-home and respite support they may be used to,” she said.