Michigan Social Work is addressing issues of stigma and discrimination against Asians and other minority groups in a series of online weekly forums. Moderated by Assistant Professor Addie Weaver and Professors Rogério Pinto and Larry Gant, the discussion group aims to strengthen solidarity and fight racism and discrimination.
“The COVID-19 pandemic quickly exposed social (e.g., unemployment, food insecurity), medical (e.g., lack of testing, medicine), and structural (e.g., lack of hospital beds, protective gear) issues which have historically undermined the most vulnerable in our society. Our Thursday discussions have addressed issues of stigma, oppression, positionality and myriad others, which outside of the COVID-19 context might be overlooked. The weekly discussion has generated many ideas for research and updated curricula needed to understand and address this new reality,” said Pinto.
Sponsors include the School's Faculty Allies for Diversity Committee in collaboration with the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. We hope students, faculty and staff will join us via BlueJeans at 3 PM on Thursdays for these frank and essential community discussions.
Associate Professor Shawna Lee discussed the stress of parenting during the coronavirus pandemic on the latest episode of the Michigan Minds podcast. On March 24, which was shortly after much of the country began social distancing, Lee and PhD student Kaitlin Ward conducted an online survey that asked a series of questions on parenting behaviors, economic situation and well-being.
Each year the Michigan Men’s Health Foundation holds a Men’s Health Event in Metro Detroit, which offers low-income men free health and mental health screenings. Research consistently demonstrates that these groups of men are more likely to experience undiagnosed or sub-optimally managed chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Assistant Professor Jaclynn Hawkins has received a grant to both evaluate the impact of this event on health behaviors, and to assess health behaviors and outcomes in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded by the Michigan Institute for Clinical Health Research, this study will help health care professionals better meet the needs of this at-risk group, while taking into account the specific health needs during the pandemic.
“Low-income men in metro Detroit are one of the most at-risk and vulnerable groups during the pandemic, this research will ensure their voices are heard and their needs are met during this critical time,” Hawkins said.
Clinical Associate Professor Julie Ribaudo, Joint PhD Student Sara Stein and the team from Zero to Thrive have created a trauma-informed coloring book for young children and their caregivers. Children may struggle to understand COVID-19. In the absence of concrete explanations, children can often imagine the worst and blame themselves for the changes they are experiencing. Georgie and the Giant Germ was developed to support caregivers in holding difficult conversations and to give children a way to express and manage their worries.
Paula Allen-Meares Collegiate Professor of Social Work Linda Chatters and colleagues from the U-M School of Public Health recently wrote an op-ed for Bridge. "We urge the State of Michigan to recognize the role economic disinvestment and institutional racism have played in heightening the risk of COVID-19 infection."
“We recognized the increased need for social workers to deliver online teletherapy and telehealth services in the current pandemic,” says Alia Wesala, Assistant Director of Continuing Education. “Many social workers have been forced to work with clients online or by phone for the first time, and they were not prepared for it. It is stressful to suddenly have to figure out how to serve clients remotely. There are many ethical considerations to understand and navigate around system security, privacy, informed consent and HIPAA compliance.”
To meet this training need, Wesala had a teletherapy ethics continuing education webinar ready to go on a short timeline, and it was free. She reached out to Lecturer Elizabeth González who said she could be ready to teach within one week. When ”Teletherapy: Start It Up!” was announced, word got out fast. More than 1,200 social workers and other health professionals from around the country signed up in 24 hours, forcing Wesala to close enrollment out of a concern that participants could exceed the capacity of the webinar platform. In addition, more than 800 have requested copies of the recording. Those wishing to obtain a recording may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michigan’s frontline workers are providing essential services during the pandemic and they are also dealing with unprecedented stress. Knowing the potential impact of this stress on workers’ psychological well-being, a team including Joint PhD student Sara Stein LMSW, MS and Joy Wolfe Ensor, PhD ‘83, has created MI Frontline Support, a mental health initiative to help frontline workers in Michigan get easy-to-access support from clinicians. Other team members include Erin Barbossa, Felicia Brabec and Sarah Jurkovic.
“The mental health of our doctors, nurses, delivery personnel, grocery clerks, gas station attendants and other essential workers is paramount now more than ever,” says Sara Stein “They are putting their own health and safety, not to mention that of their families, at risk to save others affected by the outbreak, provide needed food and deliver crucial necessities to Michiganders. I feel it’s our responsibility, as social workers and psychologists, to ensure that frontline workers who are supporting all of us during this pandemic can access the mental health care they need.” Members of MI Frontline Support along with members of the southeast Michigan mental health community delivered an online psychoeducational presentation on the mental health risks of the pandemic to frontline workers.
MI Frontline Support’s priority is to develop a detailed list of mental health clinicians who can provide services to essential workers in need. “We invite all licensed Michigan mental health professionals to join this initiative. The list will reduce the barriers that make it difficult to find a provider,” says Stein. MI Frontline Support is removing the long wait to find a therapist, providing easy insurance information for clients who have insurance, pay what you can for those who still have resources, and some volunteer services for frontline workers who can't afford anything.
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During this global pandemic, it is essential to protect Michigan’s frontline workers. Interventions such as MI Frontline Support bolster the mental well-being for workers exposed to COVID-19.
Associate Professor Terri Friedline discusses financial system reform and consumer protections to ensure that people and communities have access to safe and affordable financial products and services during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Assistant Professor Addie Weaver recently started a pilot program to increase access to depression treatment in rural communities, which often lack mental health professionals, as part of her National Institute of Mental Health-funded Career Development Award. She collaborated with pastors and human service providers from Hillsdale, Michigan to develop an evidence-based, computer-assisted depression treatment program, Raising Our Spirits Together. The computer-assisted program, based on cognitive behavioral therapy, was designed to be delivered in small groups in rural churches, with local pastors serving as facilitators.
As the project was launching, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order to fight the spread of the coronavirus. It was no longer feasible to meet in person for small group sessions at the church. Weaver and her partners had already identified a group of people who needed depression treatment and were concerned about their symptoms worsening due to the additional stresses of social distancing and isolation.
After talking with the pastors and group members, Weaver and her research team retooled the treatment program and now offer Raising Our Spirits Together remotely. Weaver, the pastors, and group members gather online once a week to complete the treatment program. Group members have shared how meaningful it is to continue treatment, stay connected with one another, and to learn new skills and tools to help them manage their depression during this difficult time.
Team members include Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Howard V. Brabson Collegiate Professor of Social Work Joseph Himle, Professor Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, Project Coordinator Caroline Landry, Community Research Coordinator Jeffery Johnson, and MSW student Trevor Buys.
By developing solutions during this rapidly changing time, Weaver and her team are providing crucial mental health support to rural community members.
The Michigan COVID-19 Pandemic Resource Guide, published by U-M Poverty Solutions aims to make sure the people who would benefit most from these policy changes are able to take advantage of them.
“The guide demonstrates Poverty Solutions’ commitment to action-based research that is responsive to community needs,” said Kristin Seefeldt, Poverty Solutions associate faculty director and an associate professor of social work and public policy.
University of Michigan
School of Social Work
1080 South University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106