COVID-19’s impact on our health isn’t just physical; it’s mental.
“It is such a stressful time for so many people,” said Caroline Johnson, communications coordinator at the San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health Department. “A lot of folks are having anxiety, whether that be from financial struggles, not seeing their families, or maybe a big event that had to be cancelled.”
For the 1 in 5 Americans who are already struggling with a mental illness, the pandemic’s effects are even more intense.
To honor Mental Health Awareness Month this May and everyone currently struggling with their psychological well-being, SLO County and Transitions-Mental Health Association are partnering to hold weekly mental health “drive-throughs.”
Each Friday for the rest of the month, local residents can drive by a site between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and receive a personal care package. The location changes from week to week. On May 22, it’s in the Paso Robles Library parking lot. On May 29, it’s at the Women’s Club in Arroyo Grande.
The care package is a large zip-lock bag full of fun and useful shelter-at-home items, like colored pencils and crayons, a stress ball, garden seeds, and more, as well as a series of flyers with detailed information about how to seek help
PHOTO BY PETER JOHNSON
CARE PACKAGE Each Friday for the rest of the month, locals can drop by a SLO County Behavioral Health drive-through between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and safely receive a mental health care package.
The drive-through staff wear protective equipment and simply hand the package through the car window.
“The reaction’s been really great,” Johnson said. “A lot of people were just so happy to get out of the house and participate in a community event. I think just seeing a line of cars outside and waiting for that bag gives us that sense of connection.”
The initiative continues a long-running SLO County and TMHA tradition of bringing the community together around the subject during this month.
“Every single May, Behavioral Health typically would hold a big event at our outreach office—a bike breakfast—and encourage people to come,” Johnson explained. “We said ‘OK, we need to come up with an alternative event to make sure the community knows we’re still here for them. We have to get creative about how we’re going to do that.’”
Johnson advised residents to reach out for help if they’re struggling.
“If I could give one piece of information to anybody, it’s connection is key,” she said, “whether that’s reaching out to a family member or a friend who you trust, or calling the SLO hotline. … A lot of people don’t realize they can call in and get the same therapy appointment they’d get in our offices. You’re not alone and there are a lot of people reaching out for help.” ∆