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Transforming Mental Health & Wellbeing During COVID-19 and Beyond

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

As part of a global webinar series by RTLWorks, Impact Launch practitioners and Radical Transformational Leadership program alumni are joining Dr. Monica Sharma, Sudarshan Rodriguez, Srilatha Juvva and speakers worldwide to discuss key issues and the application of Radical Transformational Leadership for enduring results. There has never been a more critical time to courageously do things differently to generate tangible results. Over the next few months, we will share highlights of this webinar series. To learn more about the webinar series and to register for an upcoming webinar, please visit RTLWorks.

In this post, we share from a webinar focused on mental health and wellbeing during Covid-19 and beyond, with two speakers focused on the wellbeing of young people. Robyn McKeen shares about the shifts and pivots made with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education in partnership with community based organizations to increase mental health and wellbeing in schools. Ama Delevett shares her experience working to end child sexual abuse and heal and transform trauma.

Generating New Narratives that Reduce Stigma

& Discrimination and Build Oneness and Action

By Robyn McKeen

Currently my contribution to fostering well-being for youth and families is using Radical Transformational Leadership tools and templates within a multi-agency project in Santa Cruz County, California in partnership with the County Office of Education, the United Way and others.

There are over 200 education and community stakeholders in our network and together we work to increase behavioral health resources within and connected to schools. The outcomes for youth we are working for are:

  • increase mental health,

  • utilize healthy stress-coping strategies, and

  • decrease anxiety, depression, substance use, and suicidal ideation.

Designing the initiative using the Conscious Full Spectrum Response model, I created space for our team to source our work from shared values of Compassion, Equity, Full Potential, and Inclusion. Two of the major systems shifts are from siloed and fragmented efforts to aligned and coordinated efforts, and from schools addressing mental health needs in scattered ways to schools addressing these needs in consistent and effective ways.

Prior to the pandemic, youth were experiencing anxiety, depression, substance use, and suicidal ideation. I was heartbroken to learn that suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in the US. Evidence shows us that adverse childhood experiences (known as ACEs) such as abuse combined with the absence of timely support leads to increased risks for physical and mental health. From the start of the pandemic and shelter in place, I have been deeply concerned about the increase in abuse and toxic stress.

Since March, my work has pivoted to focus on supporting youth and families during the pandemic crisis.

  • How can a coordinated effort best connect families to basic needs and mental health resources (especially the most vulnerable)?

  • How can I support schools to address social emotional needs as well as academic concerns?

  • How can we support families to build on the resilience and strength many have developed during these challenging times?

In May, I helped lead a virtual convening for 100 educators and other stakeholders around these topics. We shared critical information about how to connect to mental health services. We compiled free resources on our Mental Health and Wellness website that was sent out to all families, including information about counseling and virtual parent support workshops. We also compiled a list of summer activities, which is a key piece of youth wellbeing.

In addition to providing immediate resources for needs, I asked how we could embody our values of compassion and wellbeing within the virtual convening. Conventionally, meetings like this would share information only, and I wanted our network to go deeper. How could we respond to the problem of accessing resources while also realizing the potential of our community to heal and thrive? How could I make this a transformational event that supports inside-out leadership?

This pandemic has affected each of us uniquely and personally. As a helper, how can I model taking care of myself as I take care of others? I asked my colleague Kristal to open the meeting space by inviting everyone to acknowledge their own inner capacity and greatness. We embedded two additional stillness breaks into the session, providing time to breathe and stretch- or opt out and just take a restroom break. We ended the session with a reminder that as we stand for compassion for others, we must apply that same compassion to ourselves.

After the session, long-time therapists and educators shared with me that they were thrilled to see schools taking seriously the importance of mental health, after decades of slow movement. This is the community transformation I am working to shift.

I’ll share one more example of how I am working to embody the values of our work. One of our shared values is inclusion. How can we authentically include the people most impacted by the issues we are working on in the development of solutions (in our case, youth)? I started by organizing focus groups with youth to ask them about their ideas. What is working well, what is missing, and what can schools and agencies do differently to help?

When we invited the youth to co-create solutions from a place of strength, they replied with a powerful vision for a new narrative about wellbeing. Overwhelmingly, the youth said the main issue is reducing stigma and discrimination and increasing compassion and knowledge about mental health so people can take action to get support. We are now partnering with them to implement these changes.

In summary, there are 5 principles I put in place and invite you to explore:

  1. Utilize the Conscious Full Spectrum Response model to design: how can I solve urgent problems while shifting systems and norms, sourced from my universal values?

  2. Clearly identify outcomes: what do I want to change for people because of my actions?

  3. Embody my values: where can I walk my talk?

  4. Authentically include people: Who is most impacted by the issues I care about and how might I co-create solutions with them?

  5. What new narratives can I create that reduce stigma and discrimination and build oneness and action?

Healing the Trauma of Child Sexual Abuse by

Creating Well-being for Bodies, Minds, Hearts, Families and Communities

By Ama Delevett

I am so tenacious about creating a world without violence because child sexual abuse is such unnecessary suffering! Only together can we create the Paradigm shift of sexual abuse as a norm to sexual abuse no longer happens in our world.

I deeply care about compassion, love, courage and joy for myself and all others.

I work on creating wellbeing for all by helping end child sexual abuse and offering a safe place for those who experienced childhood trauma to heal.

We are working on creating the systems shift from people not knowing what to do to people knowing how to:

  • prevent the abuse

  • intervene responsibly

  • and heal trauma by creating well-being for bodies, minds, hearts, families and communities.

We use the conscious full spectrum response model when working with our clients, collaborators and volunteers. We work with schools, law enforcement, and child protective services to shift from systems that are trauma inducing to create shared safety, wellbeing, equity, justice and dignity for all.

We hold transformational events with families, business owners, city government, artists, musicians and community members because everyone has a stake in creating a world free of abuse.

Martin Luther King said, “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be who I ought to be until you are who you ought to be. This is the interrelated nature of reality.”

COVID 19 is highlighting this.

Many are asking: How do we maintain our mental health when we have been stripped of our healthy coping strategies and disconnected from our support systems? What is currently working for you? And what is missing?

Can you remember what it felt like when you were 8 years old? What did you believe about yourself and the world? Who made a difference in your life? Who gave you hope?

This is the age children are most vulnerable to abuse. Most people I have worked with were raped by a family member in their homes before the age of 7. 10% of the US population is sexually abused before the age of 18.

This breaks my heart as child sexual abuse is such unnecessary suffering and needs to stop. We all know someone who has been sexually abused as a child. And we also all know and interact with those who do harm. So-called decent people sexually abuse children.

Dr. Monica Sharma has taught me that we can not create the solutions without including those who do harm. Their behavior is not ok. And when they are able to access their inner capacities of dignity, respect, compassion their behavior changes.

Many of us want to turn away from this issue, because it is too hard to bear. Dan Goleman writes that “Compassion is the ability to see suffering and turn toward it to do something about it.” The CFSR model is about compassionate action.

When the lockdown went into effect I knew people needed to have a web of support. We created online support circles for people who had experienced childhood trauma to have connections while in isolation. I knew that people would need to access services regardless of their ability to pay. We offer our services on a donation basis so those who have more can give more and those who don't can still access support.

People come to our center deeply shaken, ashamed, terrified, worried that they will get hurt if they talk about the abuse. They often believe they caused the abuse or deserved what happened to them.

After only a few sessions they see that they are not alone, they are not to blame, and feel more safe and connected. They get to reclaim their lives, their bodies, their hope for a better future. They shift from shame, isolation and fear to a sense of hope, connection and agency.

Addressing Mental Health during Covid 19 is an opportunity to address Child Sexual Abuse. I invite you to think about what you can do to create a world that is free of sexual abuse be part of the paradigm shift.

  1. Stop being a bystander. Release shame and do something to help us end child sexual abuse. Take the “Darkness to Light Stewards of Children” online training.

  2. Create safe spaces for yourself and others to heal from the trauma and become pro-activists to create the Paradigm shift.

  3. Create spaces for children and youth to authentically share and be supported to live their full potential.



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