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A St. Louis Thanksgiving Like No Other

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COURTESY OF CONGREGATION TEMPLE ISRAEL
  • COURTESY OF CONGREGATION TEMPLE ISRAEL

Disaster Relief

The holidays can be a salve for our overburdened lives. They can also be stressful, isolating and depressing.

That's especially true now with the pandemic cutting off the normal support networks, hitting everyone in countless ways. Places for People, a St. Louis-based mental health provider, started the Show-Me Hope Crisis Counseling Program over the summer, funding it through a grant typically reserved for natural disaster relief. In a lot of ways, the disaster relief aspect is apt. COVID-19 has hit like a tornado or a flood, only the fallout extends even further.

"COVID looks very different than other disasters, too, because it's not just somebody's home that got destroyed," says Places for People's Desirae Rowan, who is the team leader for Show Me Hope. "People's finances are really impacted. People's jobs are impacted. Their social interactions are impacted. So, our team is working to address a variety of those concerns that folks are going through."

Show Me Hope offers three main services: crisis counseling over the phone, mental health presentations and virtual support groups. All of their services are free.

Their most popular service is their crisis counseling. Anybody can call 314-615-9105, ext. 397 to be connected with a crisis consultant in less than 24-hours for free and confidential services.

Counselors, split across three teams headquartered at Places for People as well as two other organizations, are available to work with callers through multiple sessions if they want and can refer them for additional services if necessary.

For some, they just need one phone call to an understanding stranger to get them through.

"When people are so stressed out, and I know I've experienced this myself, it's impossible for me to focus on anything," Rowan says, adding, "With all of these extra challenges, folks are really struggling to just figure out where to start."

Show Me Hope has also been providing presentations about mental health topics, including stress management, burnout and mindfulness. So far, this service has been used mostly at schools for overwhelmed teachers, but they've also started to reach out to universities, churches and anywhere else that they feel people will benefit.

They similarly offer virtual support groups. Groups have been aimed at a specific community, such as teachers, but there have been more general ones, filled with people who currently feel the need for connection. Counselors facilitate these sessions over Zoom.

Through the grant funding, Show-Me Hope has made it a priority to reach populations that have been hit particularly hard by the stresses of the pandemic, including children and their caregivers, the elderly who have become even more isolated, overtaxed health-care workers and the unhoused, who have found themselves without a lot of the already meager support services as shelters have had to reduce capacity and other operations have closed.

But the thing about the pandemic is that no one is immune to its relentlessness, and that's why the services are open to everyone.

Rowan says, "We all need that little bit of support and connection right now."

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