Finding unity through the crisis

By Jamie Willmann

In a time where much dissension exists, where the world is hurting out of a lack of love and community, and where isolation has hindered social interaction, we can find a sense of connection in the most unexpected places.

There is benefit in meeting someone who is experiencing the same trials or pain we are going through. Though we may all come from differing backgrounds, we can find unity in this COVID-19 disaster by digging a little under the surface. Underneath, we still find persons who have emotions and feelings that are directly affected by the state of the world. 

Finding commonality in trials breeds possible connection. When we relate to one another, sympathy is present. It creates a sense of safety knowing that someone knows what we are experiencing. We may not feel as lonely in our trials anymore, and it creates an internal sense of validation. 

People across the world are experiencing an influx of changes to their normal routines. By nature, we are adaptable to new environments and changes, but the pandemic is entirely on a new scale. It is bringing new situations that we never thought possible. 

We are not designed to be isolated from others. We crave community and the presence of others. As we now adjust to something that goes against our nature, problems arise. Anxiety increases, and irritability becomes present. 

In the moments when you feel COVID-19 has shattered your daily life, imagine that you are standing at the edge of potential for growth. Although you may feel anxious, depressed, or fearful, you also share in the fact that there is growth that can come out of this. You, however, have to choose that path. 

The first step is acknowledging you need help and then accepting a helping hand from your neighbor. 

There is a conception of mental health that needs to be stopped. Many believe they must appear as if they have it all together, which then inhibits them from receiving the help that could change the trajectory of their daily lives. We must break down these expectations to allow others in to help us.

Whether you are facing job loss, money problems, sickness, or family loss, know that you are not alone. Nowhere does it say that you have to do this on your own. 

Our Crisis Counseling Program (called Texans Recovering Together) is made possible by a dedicated group of professional counselors. 

— We are a team of people devoted to providing accessible, caring, and responsive services. 

— We are here to listen to you, to build you up, and to provide you with what you need to press on. 

— We are a network of community support that is here by your side. 

By empowering our communities and taking a strength-based approach, our services provide empowerment to the community and resilience to combat the fear. We believe that we are better together, and we want to help you through these hard times.

Call us at toll-free at (866) 576-1101 to speak with a counselor, or request counseling here.

We are #TexansRecoveringTogether. We are here to help you recover. 

Jamie Willmann was raised in a Christian home and was taught to serve and love others at an early age. She has a passion for making people smile and brightening people’s days. Jamie came from Wisconsin three years ago to attend Baylor, where she graduated with a degree in international studies. She now devotes her free time to self-care, exercising, relaxing in nature, and fellowship with friends.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

10 Waco organizations collaborate to promote free mental health services

City of Waco

Strategic Communications Workgroup  

MEDIA RELEASE  

Ten Waco organizations are partnering with Heart of Texas MHMR to  promote free, confidential mental health services available to all Central Texans. Mental health needs have risen with COVID-19, and these organizations want community members to know there is help available at no cost to the recipient.  

Heart of Texas MHMR is participating in the Texans Recovering Together Crisis Counseling Program that provides short-term interventions to help people impacted by COVID-19. The program is available to anyone impacted by COVID-19 and is designed to reduce stress and provide emotional support, as well as connect folks with other agencies that can help in the recovery process. All services are free, anonymous, confidential, and available by virtual visit.  

While many organizations are working together to promote a safe, healthy environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health can’t be overlooked. The uncertainty brought on by the virus coupled with job loss, financial burdens, education complexities, and health concerns has led to an  increase in stress, anxiety, and other mental health needs across the county. Texans Recovering Together  is here to help our community get through this crisis.  

The organizations participating in the campaign include McLennan Community College, United Way of Waco-McLennan County, Prosper Waco, Baylor University, Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Waco Foundation, the City of Waco, and McLennan County.  

Each participating organization will promote a series of social media posts on specific days in an effort to  widely spread messaging about mental health assistance. The Communications Co-op, co-funded by the  City of Waco, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and Waco Foundation, will provide grants to each organization for social media promotion of the mental health campaign. 

The Strategic Communications Workgroup is one of four committees established by Mayor Kyle Deaver in an effort to provide accurate information to all residents of Waco and McLennan County.

For more information, contact Natalie Kelinske, director of communications & donor services for Waco Foundation, at nkelinske@wacofoundation.org  or 254-754-3404.

Helping your teen through the strangest year ever

From The Heart of Texas Region MHMR

Most teenagers strive for independence, want to be with their peers, and are looking ahead to the future. Given this, how do we care for young people during this time, when they aren’t able to hang out with their friends and whose plans may have been cancelled or postponed by the coronavirus? Below are some strategies that might help to address these unexpected parenting challenges, especially at a time when many adults are struggling to hold it all together.

Make Space for Disappointment and Sadness

Teenagers everywhere are facing losses. Once-in-a-lifetime events, such as, graduations, sporting events, and proms have either been cancelled or drastically modified. Performances and competitions for which teenagers have been preparing for months, if not years, have been cancelled overnight. While schools and teachers struggle to get coursework online, gone are the clubs, teams, and other interactions that many students enjoy.  

Though we can’t replace what’s been lost, adults should not undervalue the power of offering empathy to discouraged adolescents. In addition to feelings of anxiety around COVID-19, teenagers may be feeling sad, angry, and frustrated about what has become of their year. Words of understanding or empathy might include, “I hate that you have lost so much so fast and I am sorry this has happened. You’ll get through this, but that doesn’t make it any easier right now.” When it comes to addressing painful feelings with teenagers, offering compassion can help pave their way toward feeling better.

Make Space for Relief and Joy

The same teenagers who may be feeling upset about missing school and their peers, may also express some feelings of relief. As much as they are grieving their losses, they may also be relieved at getting out of some commitments they never wanted to keep, or interactions with classmates, teachers or coaches that may have been negative in the past. We might say, “It’s OK to feel relief now too,” while reassuring teenagers that embracing the upsides of the disruption does not minimize what they’ve lost or their worries about the impact of the virus.

Expect Friction Regarding Their Social Lives

If you’re a parent who is sticking to the social distancing guidelines, your teenager is probably already frustrated with you, as some parents are still allowing their kids to hang out as usual. To address this we might say, “I know that other parents are still having kids over, but we can’t support that choice because it doesn’t fit with what the official safety recommendations are.” From there, we can let our teenagers know that when turning down invites they are free to blame us, and that if local safety guidelines allow, we’re open to their suggestions about how they might get together with friends outdoors, six feet apart.

When adolescents can’t see their peers in person, it seems only fair to loosen the rules on how much time they spend connecting online. But all bets aren’t off. Now, as always, rules are still in order to keep digital technology from undermining essential elements of healthy development. Sleep, productive learning, physical activity and face-to-face interactions (even if only with family members for now) should not be crowded out by life online.

Allow Privacy and Time Alone

Of course, few adolescents will want to spend all of their new at-home time with their parents or guardians. Teenagers who are formally quarantined, under shelter-in-place orders, or simply practicing social distancing will need and deserve privacy and time alone. Make it clear that you welcome your teenagers’ company, but don’t take it personally if they want you nearby but quiet, or if they want to spend time in some other private space in your home.

Think about approaching your teenager with an extra measure of thoughtfulness when making requests. For example, saying, “We’re going to need you to supervise your sister for a couple of hours, but we know that you have plans too. How should we do this?” might be a good place to start.

Treat Teenagers as Problem-Solving Partners

As we struggle to figure out new rules, systems and routines for daily living, let’s remember that adolescents are usually at least as resourceful as adults. Don’t hesitate to ask teenagers’ help. We could say, “We’re all having to invent new ways to arrange our days. Can you show me what you have in mind so that I can get a feel for your regular schedule and make sure you’re covering all your bases?”

The school year is ending, summer is nearly here and there is a lot we still don’t know about how that will unfold for our teenagers, but there are some truths about adolescents that can help us through this difficult time: they welcome empathy, they are resilient and adaptable, and they appreciate — and tend to live up to — high expectations.

Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus: Helping Children Cope Emotionally


From your Heart of Texas Region MHMR (For more posts in this series, click here: Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus)


Children are being flooded with information about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) from a variety of sources.  This is a unique situation that may leave parents questioning what to say to their children and how to address the possible emotional fallout from this concerning and anxiety-producing time in our society.

Children need to have important, factual, and appropriate information. They are likely receiving information from peers, adults, social media, and news outlets. We know that not all of this information is accurate.  Parents should provide accurate information in an effort to reduce possible confusion, fear and anxiety and to provide reassurance.  Be careful not to provide too much information and keep it at a level that the child is able to understand.

Remain sensitive to your child’s mood, behavior, and any noticeable changes in regular patterns such as sleeping and eating.   Some children keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, while others act out their emotions. If you notice changes in your child, encourage them to express their feelings so you can explain and provide support. This provides safety and security for your child in the midst of difficult feelings and emotions. 

Continue to have as much structure in the day as your time will allow. Life as your children know it has been disrupted probably more than any other time in their lives. They are not attending school, they may not be seeing friends, sporting events have been cancelled or postponed, and they may be staying home more. Structure can decrease the amount of anxiety a child may be feeling, and give them a sense of control.

Provide children with practices that decrease the chances of getting the virus. Inform your children of the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations on what safety steps can be taken to lessen the spread of the virus (e.g., washing hands frequently, using wipes to clean surfaces, not gathering in large groups, keeping distance from others, using proper means to cover mouth when coughing or sneezing). This will offer children a sense of control over the spread of the virus.

Be aware of your own responses to COVID-19. Children take signals from their parents. Try to be aware of how you are feeling and your own experiences around COVID-19, and how this can affect your child. Speak to a friend, spouse or other trusted person to talk about your concerns and anxieties.  Don’t wait to feel overwhelmed by your worries to speak to others.  Having ongoing discussion with others will help you with your own anxieties and in not feeling you are alone in your concerns.


MHMR Mental Health Hot line – 254-752-3451 or 1-866-752-3451 – 24 hours a day. For questions related to substance use challenges, call 254-297-8999. Call 911 for a life-threatening crisis. 

Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus: Taking Care of Yourself is Not a Luxury


From your Heart of Texas Region MHMR (For more posts in this series, click here: Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus)


During times like these taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury. It is essential. And during this difficult time, when stress is running high, it’s more important than ever. Here are five tips that can help:

Make time for yourself – Right now, much of the personal time that was part of our daily routines may not be available. Without it, we have to be intentional about creating space to recharge and decompress. This could look like taking a shower or bath, walking around the block, or designating time to read. Think proactively of things you can do with this enforced time at home. Get back in touch with hobbies or activities you enjoy but rarely have time for, or make the choice to learn a new skill.

Prioritize healthy choices – The added stress and loss of structure we are all experiencing right now can make it easy to slip into habits that feel good in the moment but can be detrimental in the long term. Make sure you’re eating properly, try to get enough sleep, and create a routine that includes physical activity. Be thoughtful and intentional about how you are treating yourself and your body.

Be realistic – Avoid burnout by setting realistic expectations and giving yourself grace if you can’t meet them. Practice forgiveness and self-compassion. There’s no playbook for this. Remember you are doing your best during a very difficult time. Cut yourself some slack.

Set boundaries – Anxiety may seem rampant right now. With so much worry and uncertainty floating around it can be easy to absorb other people’s fears and concerns without even realizing it. If you have a friend or family member who is in the habit of sending worst-case-scenario news or is prone to sending anxiety-provoking text messages, practice a little emotional distancing. Let them know you sympathize but that you’re taking a break from constant worrying. You can always reconnect when things are calmer.

Finally, remember, being kind to yourself will not only help you stay calm during this difficult time, it will help ensure that you have the bandwidth you need to take good care of yourself. When you prioritize your needs, you’re filling the tank, emotionally and physically, and that means you’ll be in a position to offer comfort and care to others when they need it most.

Mental Health in the time of Corona Virus: Intense feelings are to be expected – know when to seek help


From your Heart of Texas Region MHMR (For more posts in this series, click here: Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus)


Natural disasters – including pandemics like the current Coronavirus outbreak – can seriously affect emotional health. Fear and anxiety about contracting a disease may feel overwhelming and may cause strong emotions in adults and children alike. 

Intense Feelings Are Expected 

Over the years the residents of the Heart of Texas Region have demonstrated remarkable resilience. Individuals, families, and communities impacted by the Coronavirus are taking proactive steps to adjust and adapt to the situation. The reaction to personal and financial stress created by the Coronavirus is different for each person. Though some may not need additional help, many may find themselves in need of extra support to help them cope with the changes to everyday living. 

Talk About Feelings with Friends and Family 

Talking about the way you feel, and taking care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol, and getting exercise can help to manage and alleviate stress. 

Take Care of Each Other 

Check-in with friends and family members to find out how they are doing. Feeling stressed, sad, or upset is a common reaction to life-changing events. Learn to recognize and pay attention to early warning signs of serious problems. 

Know When to Seek Help 

Depending on their situation, some people may develop depression, experience grief, and anger, turn to drugs and alcohol, and even contemplate suicide. The signs of serious problems include: 

  • Excessive worry. 
  • Frequent crying. 
  • An increase in irritability, anger, and frequent arguing. 
  • Wanting to be alone most of the time. 
  • Feeling anxious or fearful, overwhelmed by sadness, confused. 
  • Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating and difficulty making decisions. 
  • Increased alcohol and/or substance use. 
  • Physical aches, pains, complaints. 

If these signs and symptoms persist and interfere with daily functioning, it is important to seek help for yourself or a loved one.

During this time, the Heart of Texas Region MHMR will continue to provide services to our customers and the community.

The safety of our community and our customers remain our top priority. If you are experiencing emotional distress related to the COVID-19 emergency, or for any other help, please contact the Heart of Texas Region MHMR Center 24/7 by phone or text at 1-866-752-3451

Additional Helpline: 

The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, can provide immediate counseling to anyone who is seeking help in coping with the mental or emotional effects caused by developments related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Helpline is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week and free resource that responds to people who need crisis counseling and support in dealing with the traumatic effects of a natural or human-caused disaster. The Helpline is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Helpline specialists are trained to assist callers who have a range of symptoms.

“People who have been through a traumatic event can experience anxiety, worry or insomnia,” said Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, Ph.D., who is the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and who is the head of SAMHSA. “People seeking emotional help during an ongoing disaster such as a pandemic can call 1-800-985-5990 or can text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746 – and can find recovery and coping strategies.”

The Helpline immediately connects callers to trained and caring professionals from the closest crisis counseling centers in the nationwide network of centers. The Helpline staff will provide confidential counseling, referrals, and other needed support services. More on the Helpline is at http://disasterdistress.samhsa.gov/.