In a recent interview with CNN, Dr. Rita Brock, director of the Shay Moral Injury Center at Volunteers of America, spoke about the mental health crisis that will result from the COVID-19 pandemic. She expressed concern that the virus may wind up with an “extra 75,000 deaths of despair” – victims of substance abuse and suicide.

Financial distress and emotional stress will lead to feelings of shame, failure and hopelessness. Now throw in some social isolation, an uncertain job market, conflicting reports from the scientific community on the validity of tests, the efficacy of a “cure” and the unknown release date and safety of a vaccine, and you have the perfect storm for a real mental health crisis.

“Three months into the coronavirus pandemic, the country is on the verge of another health crisis, with daily doses of death, isolation and fear generating widespread psychological trauma,” reports the Washington Post.

If you compare April 2019 to April 2020, you see a more than 1,000 percent increase in people reporting emotional distress, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The online therapy and mobile therapy company Talkspace saw a 65 percent increase in clients between mid-February and late April.

This is not even taking into consideration the trauma, stress and exhaustion that our brave health care workers are facing.

Our team of mental health professionals at Shalom Tikvah is doing our best to prepare to meet the demand. But quite frankly, we are scared! Only a very small percentage of the trillions of dollars allocated by Congress for emergency coronavirus funding is earmarked for mental health care.

Shalom Tikvah has been unique in our model, long before any of us heard of COVID-19, because we depend on the support of our community and small grants to bridge the gap between the mental health services needed by families and the amount reimbursed by insurance. For so many families, they are forced to select an insurance plan with a very high deductible to keep their monthly costs down. Most of these families tell us that without Shalom Tikvah, they would not be able to afford mental health care as they cannot afford the co-pays.

So how in the world do we continue to offer this innovative and comprehensive model to families at such a low cost when such a huge percentage of our donor base has taken a financial hit?

In trying to begin to find a solution to this problem, the #littleactsBIGIMPACT campaign was born. Shalom Tikvah has been called on by schools, community leaders, parents and other organizations to provide outreach, consultation and support. The pattern that stood out the most from all of these interactions is how big of a positive impact people can have through small gestures.

Whether it is in the form of a birthday drive-by parade, a text message, dropping off freshly baked banana bread, putting a card in the mail, a puzzle swap or sending flowers, both the recipient and the giver felt the virtual hug. When things feel hopeless and overwhelming, knowing that you are cared for, thought of and not alone is extremely powerful.

Dr. Brock explained in her CNN interview that without someone to talk to and process their feelings, too many people will turn to suicide. She encourages us all to reach out and talk to others, to help our friends and families normalize their feelings.

Shalom Tikvah was fortunate enough to partner with the Owings Mills-based Flowers & Fancies to help kick off the #littleactsBIGIMPACT campaign. We wanted to come up with something that was good for the giver and the recipient’s mental health while supporting a local business. Flowers & Fancies will donate a very generous portion of any arrangement ordered directly through our website (shalomtikvah.org), and these funds will absolutely help us keep the lights on.

The response to this campaign has been overwhelming. People are thanking their children’s teachers, they sent love on Mother’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries, and some are sending flowers with a note just to say, “I miss you and I am thinking about you.”

The arrangements are gorgeous, but the feelings that they inspire are truly the most beautiful part.

What small act will you do today to have a big impact on someone else? We have a long road to recovery ahead of us, let’s all work together, let’s do the absolute best that we can to make sure that this virus does not take more from us than it already has.

To order flowers for someone as part of the #littleactsBIGIMPACT campaign, go to our website, shalomtikvah.org, to order.

Dr. Nicole Glick (left) and Jennifer Grossman are the founders of Shalom Tikvah. (Photo by Steve Ruark)
Dr. Nicole Glick (left) and Jennifer Grossman are the founders of Shalom Tikvah. (Photo by Steve Ruark)

Shalom Tikvah Inc. (shalomtikvah.org) is a non-profit organization that uses an innovative approach to treating mental illness and other stressors by treating the entire family system with comprehensive therapy as well as wraparound services. Shalom Tikvah’s clinical team, Nicole Glick, PsyD (clinical director), Talya Knable, LCPC (assistant clinical director), Rachel Berman, LCSW-C, and Tamar Livingstone, LGSW, along with Jennifer Grossman, director of operations, will be contributing weekly to Jmore. If there is anything you want their experts to address, please email nglick@shalomtikvah.org.