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Disaster Preparedness Committee-Notes from 5/11/20 Meeting

Disaster Preparedness Committee

Notes from 5/11/20 Meeting

Thanks folks for your enthusiastic participation and thoughtful ideas at our meeting!

Our next online meeting is set for May 27, at 7:00 PM. I will forward the ZOOM invitation closer to that date.

Notes and reflections on our May 11 meeting:

An assessment of current mental health needs in the greater Hunterdon County area is difficult to make. The NAMI Hunterdon call line has been very quiet, the Hunterdon Helpline reports few calls re mental health, (per Susan Lax), and Louise has not received any requests for assistance since her April letter (distributed to NAMI Hunterdon’s email list and posted on NAMI H’s website).

We speculate that the reasons for this period of quiet may reflect that people feel they are in “survival mode” since stay in home orders were issued. With services greatly reduced and the normal channels for seeking help altered, responses to stress and anxiety may be temporarily damped down as people revert to a “bunker mentality”. (However, Jen reports an increase in her clinical practice of persons seeking help, (up approx. 1/3).)

We need better data to ascertain a truer picture of the current mental health picture of our community. The national forecast is devastating, projecting a surge in mental health crises. (APA warns that 75,000 Americans could die of drug and alcohol misuse and suicide due to pandemic stresses. To ameliorate these “deaths of despair” the emerging issues of grief, isolation and mass unemployment need to be confronted.)

It seems reasonable to assume that national trends regarding mental health will be similarly felt in our own area. If this is so then we can expect an increase in mental health crises and an increase in the trauma of families affected by mental health crises. The demand for mental health services on a system already breaking may be overwhelming and the suffering of families struggling with the mental health issues of loved ones enormous.

As an organization committed to supporting families and individuals confronting mental health issues NAMI Hunterdon needs to prepare for the probability of a growing need for mental health care. In our discussion we grappled with the challenges that a continued pandemic represents. Our usual practices for outreach and community engagement will require new approaches, a willingness to experiment, and a big dose of humility in the face of great uncertainty.

As we brainstorm meaningful responses and consider ways to connect with our community, it may be helpful to ask:

  1. What need in our community seems greatest and can be best met at the local level?
  2. Should we begin with small projects easily managed?
  3. What does the project need and can we provide the resources?
    1. Manpower.
    2. Technology
  4. What do we hope to achieve?

Possible projects:

  • Find ways to make our presence known – i.e. NAMI Hunterdon is Operating/help is available albeit while practicing social distancing.
    • Make sure we are listed with hot lines
    • Put our web page info onto our Facebook page
  • Develop a Phone Tree – like a “caring ring”
  • Create Zoom meetings and Facebook social groups and other forms of connecting/messaging
  • Offer local online support groups

Some of the ideas we tossed around:

Contacting folks via phone, even if we just leave a message, provides a form of personal connection much needed. People suffer terribly when lonely or in need of someone to listen. [I have contacted Larry and Priscilla for contact info.]

Informal coffee get-togethers (online) sound like fun especially if Danish are served.

Online support groups are possible. [I have contacted NAMI NJ for help – both regarding data and expertise on producing an online support group. I sat in on the NAMI webinar on offering programs online so definitely doable and support available but a lot of factors to consider and leaders will definitely need to develop special skills before offering.]

Out reach to schools – huge need as pandemic brings great changes to education and great loss to students including and perhaps especially to their emotional/social growth and well being. What is our roll?

Please add and correct my sense of our meeting and after thoughts.

Best to you all, Louise


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