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Five lessons we learned about mental health in 2020

The rollercoaster of a year that was 2020 comes to an end tomorrow with lots of muted, socially-distanced fanfare, but smiles and happiness nonetheless.

It was a difficult year where many of our assumptions about our lives were challenged and our daily habits and routines tossed out the window by a virus most of us had not even heard of when the year began.

But for all of the pain, anxiety, and uncertainty, the loss of life and the loss of ways of living, 2020 tore open our minds and hearts and taught us to see life in new ways, especially when it came to our health and wellness.

As we wrap up 2020, here are five lessons that those of us behind Help & Hope Southcoast learned about mental health in 2020.

1: I think the biggest lesson I learned in 2020 is that human connection is central to many aspects of our well-being as a species. COVID-19 has compromised our ability to be physically present with each other. As a result, many things have been compromised across the board including the quality of our relationships, healing time, school performance, and mental health.

I hope the collective wisdom that emerges from this COVID-19 experience is the understanding that we truly need each other, and that together we are stronger and can thrive.

Kathleen Mackenzie, Ed.D., MSW, LICSW, CMHIMP

Supervisor of Clinical and Behavioral Services

New Bedford Public Schools

2: Be open and speak your truth. You never know what someone is going through. We need each other!

Lindsay Carter-Monteiro

Mayor’s Task Force, New Bedford

3: As 2020 comes to an end there's a lot of things that I've learned this year. I've always believed that we should serve one another. As a Christian minister that's been probably the strongest message I've always wanted to convey. The Lord came and He served others. In fact He said He came not to be served but to serve.

I have found that many people in our community have a greater resiliency than we even imagined. A reservoir of capability that we never tapped into.

2020 was a very big struggle and a lot of people had to really stretch to be able to handle so many different and difficult things that we came across. There were the issues of mental health, depression, separation and anxiety about what was happening with COVID. What was happening with our politics. What was happening in our community, but people stepped up people and came together.

People strengthened one another. That gives me a great source of pride and Hope in what humans can do for one another. When we recognize that we're not alone and can reach out. We can be a part of not only each other in our families and our friends but in our community.

I truly believe that 2021 is going to be a fantastic year. We still have a way to go, but we will get through it and we'll do it together. So as we go forward, as we look to this new year, look at the hope that's inside of you. Look at the hope that is in you for others and look to see what God can do.

Rev. David A Lima

Pastor, New Seasons Worship Center

Executive Minister, Inter-Church Council of Greater New Bedford

Chair, Greater New Bedford Suicide Prevention Coalition

4: I think that in 2020, talking about mental health and standing up to say I need help or am experiencing mental health issues, was more accepted or at least spoken of more than ever before.

I can’t tell you how many people, friends, co-workers and family members and I have had conversations on just how we all have felt around stress, anxiety, and not just with ourselves but with our kids, friends and so much more.

There’s certainly still a stigma but I do believe we have made an inchstone (I’ve heard this term used by a friend to describe little successes, steps or progress toward a goal, instead of milestones it’s inchstones) towards ending that stigma.

Leslie Poulin

First Citizens' Federal Credit Union

Hope & Help Southcoast

5: For many of us, staying connected to others during the pandemic meant logging onto our computers and entering a Zoom meeting. However, nine months into this pandemic, there are those who remain isolated.

The digital divide – the gap between those who have a high-speed internet connection at home and those who do not – existed well before the pandemic. Technology was a major part of society’s

response to COVID-19, and that excluded those without access.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 40 percent of adults age 65 and above do not have a broadband connection. Older adults are also the most vulnerable to the virus, prompting many to avoid

others for fear of catching COVID-19.

As we head into 2021, it’s important to consider how we can better engage with this population. This might mean picking up the phone rather than signing into Zoom.

For those older adults who are interested in learning technology, they could consider Internet Essentials, a Comcast program that offers high-speed internet at a reduced rate. People are eligible for the program if they utilize a variety of federal programs, including Medicaid, SNAP, or SSI.

For those who are uncertain where to get started after they connect to the web can check out Cyber-Seniors or Senior Planet. Both agencies maintain a hotline where people can ask technology questions.

Staying connected is more important than ever. And ensuring that everyone stays connected is just as


Seth Thomas

Senior Scope Editor

Coastline Elderly Services

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