By Jenna-Lee Neff
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, the public health actions necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19 can also contribute to increased feelings of isolation, loneliness, and increased stress and anxiety. One community initiative in North Phoenix is taking the topic head on, coming together via social media and the Internet to increase coping mechanisms and understanding among locals.
“We hope to take part in improving the lives of community members through education, connection building, reducing stigma, resource building, and giving people hope,” says licensed clinical social worker Jamie Born.
The North Phoenix Community Mental Wellness Group is a community-led safe space for individuals to come and find support and resources to meet their mental health needs in addressing the things they are struggling with. “The hope is to bring together the community’s experiences and carrying levels of knowledge in the mental health arena to come up with ideas and ways to better the lives in our community,” Born shares.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness that present with ranging degrees of severity from mild to moderate to severe. According to Born, people in the North Phoenix community are struggling to find timely access to resources of any type.
“There have been multiple mental health tragedies that have occurred over the past few years in our community,” she says. “This, combined with the political atmosphere and the pandemic, people are struggling and are disconnected and disillusioned.”
People already involved in the project come from all walks of life, from a mom of two teens who has seen the devastation of un-checked mental health needs first-hand to school counselors, addiction treatment specialists, and a child psychologist. One member of the group knows the needs in the mental health community through her own personal struggles.
Cassidy Lundgren was diagnosed with depression after her freshman year of college and has spent the past 20 years learning the ins and outs of her illness, as well as how to manage it.
“I have been so thankful that I have been able to help guide [my kids] through their issues because of my own experiences with mental illness,” Lundgren shares. “Struggle leads to empathy and strength. And hopefully as we become more open and aware of these diseases, we can not only help our children, but those around us.”
To learn more about the project, locals can join the North Phoenix Community Mental Wellness Group on Facebook. The group is set to private to protect the participants but interested individuals can request to join. The community will be holding their first forum virtually on March 10 at 7 p.m. Community members are invited to participate via Zoom by going to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5084667302.
Jenna-Lee Neff is a freelance journalist, digital audience analyst, and PR professional. Learn more about her work at jennaleeneff.com.