Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of local community organizations have been meeting to strategize response efforts for those most vulnerable in our communities. Having identified mental health as a critical need for many, these organizations have come together, with the generous support of $25,000 grant from the South Coast Community Foundation, to create a campaign in effort to end stigma and strengthen mental health, named Help and Hope Southcoast.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 50 percent of all Americans have been diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. This campaign will bring discussion and awareness to the forefront around the stigma that is too often associated with mental health. No one facing a mental illness should feel alone. To reach this goal, this group plans on increasing access to services and inspiring the community to check in with one another when they see people in need. The program is designed to bring all partners to the table with one voice of “Help and Hope” including social media presence, digital and print media, a website (www.helphopesouthcoast.com) with links to resources and support groups and an extensive directory through Southcoast Resource Connect, an online behavioral health and community resource locator developed by Southcoast Health.
“We don’t think twice when seeking help for a heart problem or other physical condition,” said the Rev. Davis Lima, executive minister of the Inter Church Council of Greater New Bedford. “However, when it comes to mental health, we’re embarrassed about what people will think. We all struggle with fears, anxiety, and depression at times. Most of us have coping mechanisms but for others there is a need for added care. When you add the current difficulty of COVID-19, stay at home orders, food insecurities, these issues become heightened. We must end the stigma and help one another. Make a call, lend a hand, you just maybe saving someone’s life.”
Some of the groups that have been involved in the development of this process include: Adcare, Bristol County Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition, Child & Family Services, Coastline Elderly Services, Community Economic Development Center, Family Resource & Development Center, First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union, GiftsToGive, Greater New Bedford Suicide Prevention Coalition, Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, Human Relations Commission, Immigrants’ Assistance Center, Inc., Inter-Church Council of Greater New Bedford, JRI, Minority Action Committee, Nancy Brown Counseling, New Bedford Community Connections Coalition, New Bedford First Nazarene Church, New Bedford Shannon Program, New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, Positive Action Against Chemical Addiction, Inc. (PAACA), Samaritans of Fall River/New Bedford – serving Southeastern MA, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, Inc., Southcoast Health, St. Anne’s Credit Union, The Bridge: A Center for Hope and Healing, The Women’s Center, Tifereth Israel Congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts