Suicide prevention during this high-stress COVID-19 crisis will be the focus of a new Team Up partnership between the Morris County Department of Human Services and the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris.
The joint effort, which is being funded by county government, will deal with increased mental health issues caused by a host of factors, from loss of jobs and businesses, to isolation and fear of an uncertain future.
It will employ social services, mental health, and education professionals to reach out to Morris County residents in need of help.
“Many residents are dealing with issues that are pushing them beyond the limits of their ability to cope, and to deal with life stresses that are far beyond the norm,’’ said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo. “We want to reach out to them – young and old – and give them some help and assurance, and resources to get through this difficult time.’’
The Freeholder Board last night approved a $26,160 expenditure to fund a 22-week Team Up program, running from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, that will offer in-person and virtual help for residents, and online training for educators and professionals to deal with mental health issues during this crisis.
“We look forward to working with Morris County on this innovative effort, and we appreciate their leadership,’’ said Mental Health Association Executive Director Bob Davison. “ As a community, we must address the issues of suicide prevention and mental health out in the open; as a partnership , families, government and agencies working together.”
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, stay-at-home orders, self-quarantines, and social distancing have been employed. While these practices are helpful in dealing with the virus, this isolation from family, friends, and community have induced anxiety, depression, fear, and loneliness – all factors that can lead to suicide, according to mental health experts.
The new five-month Morris County and MHAEM program will focus on both adult and youth populations.
Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris (MHAEM) professionals will ride along with Morris County’s Navigating Hope mobile social services van one day each week throughout the county. While on Navigating Hope they will educate residents on signs of suicide, assist persons in immediate crisis, and refer residents to available mental health services.
The MHAEM also will address the adult population by providing virtual 90-minute presentations on suicide prevention to Morris County residents.
They also plan to reach consumers through social media and various programs the agency offers, while the county will help publicize the dates of MHAEM presentations and disseminate information to towns and agencies across Morris County.
The Mental Health Association will work with school districts across Morris County to educate faculty, staff, and students on the signs of suicide. All school districts will be invited to participate in an overview of the components of the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program.
MHAEM will offer training — in-person or virtual –on the implementation of the SOS program in schools.