Our world as we’ve known it has drastically changed as we grapple to understand the true breadth of impact COVID-19 is going to have on our society. Physical health and the economy are certainly at the forefront of the conversation, but we at the foundation believe that mental health also needs to be a priority during these uncertain times. While our team has moved to an alternative working environment to comply with the CDC’s recommendations, we are still here to serve our community.
I fully understand and support the importance of social distancing and staying at home to combat the spread of the virus, but I think we as a community and society need to be aware of the potential devastation it may have on someone previously diagnosed with a mental health condition, as well as someone who may never have been diagnosed, but is now isolated and experiencing anxiety over the uncertainty of the situation. There are a number of our community partners looking at how they can still provide necessary services to those in need, but it is going to take all of us working together to ensure that people’s mental health remains a priority and we are taking care of each other.
Our community is already seeing an increased need for suicide prevention and this pandemic has only begun. Our communities must work together to ensure all Nebraskans stay healthy, both physically and mentally throughout this uncertain time. While offices might be shut down, there are ways we can reach those in need. We need to make sure we are fully supporting avenues for Nebraskans to receive necessary care, even if it is not by traditional means as we’ve previously known.
We know it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the uncertainty, the widespread devastation that has ensued from this virus on so many different levels, and the fear that awaits us in every unknown. But our team continues to try and find moments of gratitude as well, and we encourage you to join us in this practice. Some points of gratitude this week . . . we are fortunate that we have a job that we can continue working from home and serve others; technology allows us to stay connected not only with our team, but our friends and loved ones . . . our definition of quality time continues to evolve and now includes FaceTime, Zoom and other virtual gatherings; and we’ve all noticed despite the fear and uncertainty that may surround us, we’ve experienced so many acts of kindness, and everyone seems to be behaving with just a bit more friendliness and patience.
We know there are also levels of extreme concern that will continue to exist until we have a clearer picture of what we face, but for now, please take care of each other, take care of yourself, reach out to a friend or colleague you haven’t connected with in awhile, get some fresh air when possible, appreciate staying in with your family when your hectic lives perhaps haven’t made quality time as easy in recent times, do some breathing exercises, turn the news off if it becomes too much, find small moments of gratitude . . . and reach out if you need someone to talk to or are feeling overwhelmed. There are trained crisis counselors available 24/7 at 800.273.8255 (TALK) at the National Suicide Lifeline. No matter how long isolation or social distancing continues . . . you are never alone.
Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation
Julia Hebenstreit is the Executive Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her J.D. from Creighton University in 2005, and her BS in Journalism from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. She has been with The Kim Foundation since 2011, and prior to that worked for local non-profits doing development, strategic planning, communications and advancement. She has a passion for helping people and improving lives, and serves on the Executive Committee for Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, as the 2015 Hill Day State Captain for the state of Nebraska, and as an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, BHECN Advisory Committee, RESPECT Advisory Board, Connections Advisory Board and the Project Propel Planning Group.