Last week the de Beaumont Foundation released a 34-page guide, Solutions for Local Leaders to Improve Mental Health and Well-Being During and Post-COVID-19. The authors state, “Researchers estimate that this pandemic could lead to an additional 75,000 deaths related to alcohol and drug misuse and suicide. One-third of Americans are now showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, and the percentage of U.S. adults who can be described as “thriving” has dropped to the lowest level since the Great Recession in December 2008.”

The guide makes recommendations on actions that may be taken by local communities to address the COVID-19 crisis. They offer recommendations and strategies by specific areas of need: immediate needs, the long term needs, youth and family needs, needs of those who are re-entering society from incarceration, recommendations on how to address substance abuse, the needs of older Americans, child abuse and families, populations of color, and immigrant population.

Under the category, VICTIMS OF INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE, CHILD ABUSE, AND ELDER ABUSE, recommendation one is: Increase awareness and availability of resources to report and exit abusive situations: 

“Leaders should consider openly discussing the underlying causes and consequences of abuse using a framing method called an explanatory chain. This approach starts a few steps back from the problem being highlighted, explains systems-level causes, and highlights collective solutions to garner a deeper understanding of the issue.”

Their second strategy also suggests that a coordinated response between local governments and housing and business authorities should come together to develop a set of emergency shelter options.

The Foundation also suggests adapting victim safety nets and support systems:

  • Leaders in health care should work with victim advocates and social workers to screen patients for abuse or mistreatment, even in telemedicine appointments. For example, the American College of Surgeons advocates for the use of the SAFE screening technique. SAFE stands for four focus areas for screening patients: Stress/ Safety, Afraid/Abused, Friends/Family, and Emergency. For telemedicine appointments, the Canadian Women’s Foundation developed a one-handed sign someone can use to signal for help.
  • Abuse victim advocates should partner with social workers, faith-based organizations, and other community-based organizations to set up networks to check-in via phone or video chat with at-risk individuals. A faith-based organization in the Bronx, New York, did just this, creating intergenerational “Emunah Groups” of seven families or individuals to check-in and support each other through a one-hour call once a week.
  • Advocates for abuse victims should work within their networks to come up with creative interventions that could mitigate and prevent abusive situations. For example, the Butler County Alliance for Children in Butler, Pennsylvania, started the Play Safe, Stay Safe Initiative to collect and deliver games to at-risk families to facilitate bonding, family time, and entertainment.

The guide offers a more in-depth analysis of the mental health challenges created by the virus and provides ways to help address the shortfalls of the past and now. It reaches beyond the rhetoric in some popular recent news articles. As the authors conclude: “There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so local leaders will need to tailor these recommendations to fit their communities’ needs. Solutions should take a collaborative approach, engaging all facets of the community from political leaders to faith-based institutions to community members to address the challenges of their communities.”