SSEU Local 371's Virtual Mental Health Town Hall:
An Uplifting Evening for our Brave Workers
Hundreds of members suffering under the burdens of the pandemic participated in a healing presentation Tuesday night by a panel of social workers designed to help them process their grief and to ease the challenges they face.
The first SSEU Local 371 Mental Health Virtual Town Hall tackled some of the difficulties that have plagued both members and their clients during Covid-19: grief and loss; fears and phobias; substance abuse; stress and domestic violence. Social service workers have been instrumental in keeping this city running during the pandemic, and in protecting its most vulnerable. They have eased the suffering of many, and now they, too, need help.
It is in this spirit that the Town Hall was offered, and it is being preserved and shared online at https://fb.watch/1REyK74okJ/
Some of the best minds in New York City social work shared their insights, including Dr. Claire Green-Forde, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers’ New York City chapter; Luisa Lopez, director of digital media in the office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; John Crepsac, a professor at New York University and addiction counselor with more than 30 years in the field; Dr. Jennifer Zelnick, chair of social welfare policy at the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work, and Ben Sher, professor and director of the Office of Global and Lifelong Learning at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work.
The event proved that we are all suffering and seeking connection; it ended in a sort of impromptu support group as members stepped forward to share their own grief and anxiety. Several members later thanked the union for a cathartic moment, one that was sorely needed amid widespread pandemic fatigue.
“Very very informative and I appreciate [this],” said one member afterward. “This tear-jerker was much needed and was presented at the right time.”
More Virtual Town Hall meetings will follow in the coming months. This event was developed and coordinated by many officers and staff at SSEU Local 371. Tanya Hatcher, LMSW, was Mistress of Ceremonies; Annette Cintron, MSW, was the Moderator, and President Anthony Wells introduced the event and shared an in-depth account of his harrowing experience with Covid-19. Yolanda Pumarejo, Denise Barr, and Iris Clark (all LMSW) also helped develop and shape the experience.
“Helpers have needs, too, and for too long, the heroic helpers we call our members have had their needs overlooked,” said President Anthony Wells. “We are relieved and gratified that so many members took comfort from the wise words of our speakers. Clearly, this was beneficial to those on the front lines, and we look forward to providing more opportunities for members to process their grief together and work toward healing.”
Don’t forget that if you are having personal difficulties, the union’s Crisis Intervention section is there for you. Call (212) 677-3900. You can also call 311 or 1-888-NYC-WELL. It’s also smart to reach out to your physician, seek a mental health professional covered by your insurance, or consult a spiritual leader.