VIDEO: Parkland Cares Executive Director Stacey Udine Talks Mental Health with Children’s Bereavement Center

In the first installment of the Parkland Cares podcast, Executive Director Stacey Udine talked with two South Florida-based mental health professionals. Chira Cassel, CEO of Children’s Bereavement Center (CBC), and Daniel Sheridan, the center’s chief program officer.

Many mental health counseling centers have transitioned to online therapy because of COVID-19. Despite not meeting in person, organizations like CBC are busier than ever. Social distancing and quarantine measures have put people at risk of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. 

Since CBC specializes in helping the community deal with losing their loved ones, they have to deal with those impacts plus their existing grief. 

One of the most difficult things about pivoting to telehealth, Cassel says, is providing people — kids, especially — the full range of support they need. 

“New grievers who have experienced a loss since COVID happened haven’t had many of the healthy rituals that grievers depend on, like the hugs and the celebrations of life,” she said. “So people have really needed the groups more because of that.”

Another challenge that’s come with moving support groups online is having to create your own support groups with friends and family. With households spending so much with each other during social distancing, they have to come up with the right things to say to help each other. 

Sheridan says that can be the hardest part. 

“Finding the right thing to say can sometimes be so difficult — because quite often, there is no perfect thing to say,” he said. “There are no words to describe what you’re feeling, how you feel for that person, and what they’re going through.”

But you don’t need to be a mental health expert to help. What’s most important to do in those situations, Sheridan says, is to show interest in how your grieving loved ones are doing. 

Just asking simple questions like…

… can be enough to show someone that you care, he said. But still, having a group of people that understand what you’re going through can make someone feel a lot less alone. 

Cassel has noticed that the elementary school support group’s favorite activities weren’t the arts or music ones. Instead, it was just talking. 

“The youngest kids wanted to talk. They wanted to share tips with other kids, they wanted to hear suggestions for helping themselves,” she said. “They were focused. They weren’t running around the room, they were chatting with each other and happy to see the other kids.” 

Although the circumstances are different, the stages of grief haven’t changed. With mental health issues and suicides rising because of COVID-19, it’s important that families still get the help they need.  

“Grief is a shared issue — it’s not one person’s problem,” Cassel says. “Families support each other and take turns falling apart … we make sure that nobody’s falling through the cracks.”

Parkland Cares has granted Children’s Bereavement Center $60,000 since 2018. That wouldn’t be possible without donations from supporters like you. Please consider donating to Parkland Cares here so we’re able to fund local mental health organizations even more.

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