Before COVID-19, Mental Health Advocates of Western New York provided support to families and children who were struggling with their mental health — whether that’s a diagnosis, behavioral issues at school or coping with the deployment of a military family member.
Now, the organization is changing how those supports are being delivered, said Jenny Laney, Mental Health Advocates of WNY child & family support program director.
"I think this is a time to be creative. I've been wanting to do support groups or Skype to reach, maybe families that just can't come in-person. So I think this is a time that we're going to see what we can do," she said. “We have creative, resilient families, and we're going to all work together to support each other.”
New York children have been home since March and are coping with an abrupt change to their normal routines. While no specific date has been offered for reopening schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined in his plan that it would be towards the end of phase two.
The organization is working toward different resources for parents to help children cope with the pandemic, said Bridget McNally, who works for community outreach at the Mental Health Advocates of WNY.
"A lot of children are experiencing anxiety and a lot of anger issues being stuck in the house and isolated from their friends and their school," said McNally.
In addition to any frustrations and grief that children may have from losing access to school, they’re also exposed to their caregivers' stress, she said.
"It's really important for parents to recognize and deal with the anxiety that they're feeling themselves, because if they don't, then they're not setting a good example for their children," said McNally.
In addition to those challenges, Western New York children living in digital deserts, over half of those households don’t have internet or cellular data plans exacerbating isolation and making getting mental health and educational services harder.
"If you know someone who doesn't have access to the phone or is very cut off from society, this is a really good time to try to reach out to them and offer in any way that you can some type of help to them,” McNally said.
To learn more about the mental health services for children amid the COVID-19 pandemic, click here or call (716) 886-1242.
For a list of mental wellness resources localized to WNY, visit their website.