COVID-19 Help: Mental Health, Personal Safety & Wellbeing

  • Managing Stress During the Pandemic

  • Help for Survivors of Assault

  • Counseling & Helplines

  • Access Recovery Services

  • Activity Ideas for Social Distancing

  • Coping With Illness & Grief

It is normal to be experiencing new feelings of anxiety as a result of this situation. Taking care of your own mental and emotional help is important for staying healthy and being able to care for others. There are many things that you can do to help manage your stress during this time: 

  • Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind with activities you enjoy
  • Remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. 
  • Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Use technology to maintain healthy relationships and connections with friends and family. 
  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking. Take note of the good things in your life and name what you are grateful for. 
  • Seek help if you need it. If you are having trouble managing your stress or are feeling overwhelmed by the situation, help is available. These are some resources for finding mental health support during COVID-19:
      • The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health has a comprehensive online guide to finding mental health support for a variety of needs. 
      • The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health in collaboration with Riverside Trauma Center have developed MassSupport to provide a range of FREE mental health and crisis services to MAssachusetts residents during COVID-19. 
      • The Network of Care Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Behavioral Health Information Hub has compiled information and resources for a wide range of mental health needs during COVID-19 including general mental health, mental health of children, substance use, suicide prevention, housing, food access, and more. This site is regularly updated. 
      • If you already have a mental health provider, check with them to see if they are offering online or phone appointments. There are also a number of online-based counseling services and some insurance plans cover these services. Check with your insurance provider or employer to find out what your benefits cover.

Here are a few resources that might be of help: 

Take care of your body. Virtually connect with others. Take breaks from the news. Make time for fun activities.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

If you are experiencing physical, emotional, sexual, or other types of abuse, you are not alone. Help is available. Call RESPOND Inc. at 617-623-5900 anytime. RESPOND Inc. is a Somerville-based organization with a 24-hour crisis hotline. They can help address your immediate and long-term needs, by providing counseling, financial resources, information, and referrals.

SafeLink, Massachusetts’ statewide 24/7 toll-free domestic violence hotline, is also available for anyone affected by domestic or dating violence, and for survivors of sexual assault. This hotline is designed for crisis intervention support for those who need assistance in safety planning measures for both themselves and their families. This resource is available by calling 2-1-1 or directly at 877-785-2020 (TTY: 877-521-2601). Advocates are available in English and Spanish and can provide translation in more than 130 languages. If you are experiencing violence within your home or concerned about a loved one that may be experiencing violence, the SafeLink hotline can provide support and resources.

Can I access help without having to make a phone call?

If making a phone call in your current situation is difficult, there are several text or chat-based support services available.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, or is contemplating suicide or harming others, call 911 immediately.

If you or someone in your family is experiencing a mental health crisis, the Boston Emergency Services Team (BEST) is available 24/7 at 1-800-981-4357. Trained staff can provide support, information, referrals, or arrange an in-person evaluation. BEST provides a comprehensive, highly integrated system of crisis evaluation and treatment services to the greater Boston area under the leadership of Boston Medical Center with support from the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership.

If you are feeling sad, lonely, hopeless, or suicidal, Samaritans can help. Call or text their 24/7 helpline any time at 877-870-4673. Services are free and confidential. 

The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health has a comprehensive online guide to finding mental health support for a variety of needs. If you already have a mental health provider, check with them to see if they are offering online or phone appointments. There are a number of online-based counseling services and some insurance plans cover these services. Some insurance plans may also waive your patient co-pay for behavioral health telemedicine appointments. Check with your insurance provider to find out what your benefits cover.

There are a number of free helplines available 24/7. If you’re looking for support but not sure where to begin, consider contacting Sara Skonieczny, LICSW, in the City’s Department of Health and Human Services, at [email protected]. She can offer guidance and help you navigate these resources. 

  • Suicide Prevention: If you are feeling sad, lonely, hopeless, or suicidal, Samaritans can help. Call or text their 24/7 helpline any time at 877-870-4673. Services are free and confidential. 
  • COVID-19 Counseling: The MassSupport network, offered through Riverside Trauma Center and the MA Department of Mental Health, provides crisis counseling and support around issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Email [email protected] or call (888) 215-4920. They can provide services in English and Spanish. More information can be found on their website at www.masssupport.org.
  • Crisis Counseling: Chat with a trained crisis counselor through the Crisis Text Line, which you can reach by texting HOME to 741741. The Crisis Text Line is also available by Facebook Messenger by clicking the “send message” button at www.facebook.com/crisistextline
  • LGBTQ Youth: The Trevor Project operates a 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for LGBTA youth. Call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Youth can also text "Trevor" to 1-202-304-1200 for support, or use the online chat feature on the Trevor Project's website.
  • Substance Use: The Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline is a public, statewide service to help connect you or a loved one with substance use treatment and recovery services. Call the helpline at 800-327-5050 M-F 8am-10pm and weekends 8am-6pm. Help is also available online at helplinema.org
  • Pandemic Distress: Contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746. This is a 24/7, national hotline that offers crisis counseling for emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster, including disease outbreaks like COVID-19. It is toll-free, multilingual, and confidential.

Many mental health services can be covered by health insurance, including MassHealth. To find a mental health provider in your network, call your insurance provider (typically the number on the back of your health insurance card).

If you do not have health insurance, you can apply online at mahealthconnector.org/

Below is a list of some local mental health providers for adults and youth:

Additional local support programs for youth:

If you are an adult and feeling overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and are looking for support coping, Looking Glass Counseling has established Somerville Support Now, a volunteer effort by local therapists to provide free support sessions to local adults struggling with the effects of COVID-19. During the 45-minute online sessions, counselors can provide empathy, connection, grounding skills, and coping skills. This service is not appropriate for someone experiencing a mental health crisis. If you need immediate help, contact one of the helplines listed above.

The Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline is a public, statewide service to help connect you or a loved one with substance use treatment and recovery services. Call the helpline at 800-327-5050 M-F 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Help is also available online at helplinema.org

If you are currently seeing a healthcare provider or are part of a program, check with them to see if there will be any modifications to how you access services during the COVID-19 emergency.

If a recovery meeting you normally attend has been canceled, there are a number of options available for phone and online meetings. Including:

  • Al-Anon Family Groups has phone and online meetings for anyone affected by alcoholism in a family member or friend.
  • Alateen Chat Meetings are for young people aged 13 to 18 who have been affected by someone else’s drinking. 
  • Allies in Recovery provides online support for families dealing with a loved one’s addiction, using the evidence-based CRAFT method (Community Reinforcement and Family Training ); free for Massachusetts residents.
  • Learn to Cope Online support forum is open to families, friends and loved ones who have someone in their lives who is struggling with addiction. Register for the online forum here

If you have a child who might be struggling with substance use, the Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline has resources for parents. You can contact the helpline directly to get help for your child and you, call 800-327-5050.

As we navigate this pandemic together, it’s important to try to find moments of joy, connection, or even distraction to preserve your wellbeing during this challenging time. Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your neighbors can help you cope with stress and strengthen our community. 

Here are some ideas and resources to get you started. 

Dig into the treasure trove of free digital resources from the Somerville Public Library. Find countless audiobooks and periodicals, stream feature films through Kanopy, learn your family history on Ancestry.com, and much more. If you don’t have a library card or need assistance resolving an issue with yours, email [email protected]

Learn a new recipe. The chefs of Nibble Kitchen have cooked up some ideas. They’ll share their favorites with us through their new virtual series, Nibble at Home. ¡Buen provecho!

Join a creative community.

  • Check out the Somerville Creates Facebook group, brought to you by the Somerville Arts Council, where we all can share the things we're creating during this difficult time. Please join to share your work and get inspired by your neighbors; all are welcome!
  • Knitters, embroiderers, and other needleworkers: Join the Somerville Public Library’s weekly drop-in group via Zoom to work on your project in your home while chatting online with other needlecrafters. Tuesdays 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. Email Mel at [email protected] for a meeting invitation. 

Get outside responsibly and see the city in a new way. We’ve compiled dozens of walking and biking routes to keep you busy, as well as some ideas for making a route of your own:

  • Venture to a neighborhood you’ve never been to. See how much of this map you can cover. 
  • Take a self-guided historic tour
  • Seek out some public art installations or one (or all!) of our colorful murals by renowned artists. 
  • Brush up on common architectural styles in Somerville. Which ones are popular in your neighborhood? 
  • Download a free app to help you identify birds or trees, then see how many species you can find on your walk.

Connect with elderly residents. Somerville-Cambridge Elder Servicesis looking for volunteers to help with making check-in calls to elder neighbors. Meeting someone new and sharing conversation will help you both feel more connected during this challenging time. There is a particular need for volunteers who speak Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish, or Haitian. A CORI/background is required.

Try a new restaurant or support an old favorite

  • Visit somervilledelivers.com for a full list of restaurants open for delivery or takeout. Some restaurants are also now offering grocery items.
  • Buy a gift card to a business you frequent often or shop online if available. 
  • Have a virtual meal with friends, then tip your favorite local restaurant staffers using a payment app.
  • Leave a positive comment or review on a favorite local business’s social media accounts.

Stay active with daily dance challenges, athletic drills, and more on the new Somerville Parks & Recreation Virtual Activities page. Or find a local fitness studio that is offering online videos or virtual training.

Exercise your mind with one of the many engaging activities on the Somerville Public Schools #JustForFun page. See how to build an app, art museum tours, and other ideas students and families can enjoy together at home.

Complete the U.S. Census. Already submitted for your household? Ask five friends if they’ve filled it out. The U.S. Census is a count of every person living in the United States that happens once every 10 years. It’s used to determine how to allocate more than $675 billion dollars for things like healthcare, hospitals, schools, housing, and emergency preparedness - all things that are critical to everyday life and during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. You can complete the U.S. Census safely from your home online or by phone in 13 languages. Census guides and videos are available in 59 other languages. 

Entertain little ones with online storytimes

  • Somerville’s Children’s Librarians are hosting their usual live readings Tuesday through Friday mornings on Facebook Live.
  • Prerecorded storytimes are also available as part of a yearslong collaboration with Somerville Media Center. 
  • Follow along with the Library’s “Reading to Rocky!” series on Instagram. (It should be noted that Rocky is a pup and he LOVES to read.)

Belt a tune with the Somerville Public Schools Music Department. They’re offering virtual sing-a-longs to lift our voices and our spirits. 

Put a friendly sign in your window. Or a rainbow. Or teddy bears. Positive messages feel good to share, and it can be fun to try to find them when walking around.

Meet your neighbors in the era of social distancing. Consider leaving a card with your name and contact information to introduce yourself or offer assistance.

Leave a sidewalk note with chalk to a neighbor or friend that you miss visiting. 

Are you musically inclined? Share a song from your porch with your neighbors or host a distant sing-a-long from your own porches or windows.

Write a letter to a friend -- yes, with paper and pen! Include a stamped envelope addressed to yourself to make it even easier for them to write you back.

It is an incredibly difficult time to have a loved one fall ill. You may not be able to physically show up for our loved ones during this time, but you can still provide support while adhering to social distancing recommendations. Phone calls, video calls, or social media communication can provide important connections to your loved ones and can help you feel less alone. If you are healthy, you might be able to provide support to someone who is sick or in quarantine by running essential errands on their behalf or connecting them with help from social service or healthcare providers. 

It is also normal to be experiencing new feelings of anxiety or grief as a result of this situation. Taking care of your own mental and physical health is important for being able to care for others. Here are a few resources that might be of help: 

You might be experiencing grief and feelings of loss for a number of reasons during this pandemic. You might be grieving the death of someone in your life or you might be experiencing grief due to a loss of security, stability, and normalcy. All of these losses can be traumatic and grief is a natural response to losing something or someone important. Having to isolate and distance yourself from your loved ones can make it harder to cope with grief, but there are some things you can do to help get through this difficult time:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. Whatever you are feeling during this time is valid. Everyone experiences loss in their own way, so be patient and kind with yourself for what you are feeling.
  • Talk about your loss and stay connected. Connecting with friends and family through phone, text, or video may help you feel less alone. 
  • Name what is good in your life. Write down what you are grateful for in your life. 
  • Focus on what is in your control. Focus on taking care of yourself by staying home, washing your hands, exercising, and maintaining a regular schedule.
  • Take a break from media coverage of the pandemic and do something relaxing or energizing. 
  • Ask for help. You are not alone and help is available if you need it. The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health has an online guide to finding mental health support and the Counseling & Mental Health tab on this website has a number of other resources available to access mental health support. If you have a child who is struggling with the loss of a family member, the Children's Room in Arlington is accepting referrals and offering telehealth services for grief support.

At a time of loss, it is natural to want to come together with loved ones. Social distancing orders and travel restrictions can make honoring a loved one more difficult, but you do not need to navigate this situation alone. It is important to stay socially connected with your loved ones, even if you can’t physically be together.

If your loved one is hospitalized, the hospital's Social Services department will be able to advise on how to make the proper arrangements for anything you may need moving forward. It is also important to contact a Funeral Director, as funeral homes have been receiving specific guidance and they’ll have the expertise to help you. 

Both of these resources can provide you with crucial information on how to navigate any end-of-life decision-making process and what kind of financial assistance your family may be eligible for to help cover the costs.

Considerations for Ceremonies 

The current COVID-19 pandemic may present some significant challenges to holding funeral ceremonies we’re accustomed to. Bereaved families can work with their funeral director to create meaningful services that adhere to current social distancing guidelines. The Center for Loss & Life Transition also offers some suggestions to help make the process less overwhelming during this unprecedented time: 

  • If possible, try to have a small ceremony wherever you are. Gather the family members who are part of your household, display photos of the person who died, light a candle, say a prayer or read a text aloud that is meaningful to you, play music if you’d like, and share thoughts and memories. This informal “funeral” may help you mark the occasion of the death, pay tribute to the person who died, and feel that sense of acknowledgment, remembrance, and support.
  • At a time of great loss, we want our loved ones close. If the pandemic is making this impossible, consider using technology to reach out to the people you care about to share news of the death, support one another, and discuss funeral planning. The goal is to stay connected as much as possible AND to be open and honest in those communications about whatever it is you are feeling or struggling with at the moment. Your candor will encourage others to be honest as well, creating the opportunity for mutual support and kindness.
  • Technology can also be used to help overcome any limitations of the funeral service itself. Services can be webcast or recorded and made available online later. Obituaries, guest books, and video tributes can be (and often are) shared online. And turning to technology is also a good way to involve others in the funeral-planning process. People want to help—and that is especially true right now. Tech-savvy friends and family members can all pitch in to help create videos, edit and upload photos, write social media posts, etc. The more people who participate, the better.
  • Plan a larger service and/or reception when social distancing restrictions have lifted. The social distancing restrictions have made us all more aware of our human need to be with and touch the people we care about. When death affects our social circle, we naturally feel the need to congregate and support one another in person. Even if you must delay a larger public gathering, those who want to support you will still be happy to attend when it is safe to do so. 

Funding & Assistance

Some funding may be available through the MA Department of Transitional Assistance to help pay for a funeral and burial. More information about eligibility can be found here

The City of Somerville’s Social Worker and Family Services Manager, Luciana Quintanilha, is available to provide guidance on this difficult topic. She can be reached at 857-270-4010 or via email at [email protected].

Given the uncertainty we are dealing with because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to start having conversations about end-of-life preparations with our loved ones, as difficult as they may be. With day-to-day life feeling particularly uncertain right now, having these difficult but important conversations can provide us with a sense of control, which can help make us feel less overwhelmed.

Now is a good time to consider the following:

  • Advance directives for yourself: Do you have a health proxy? What are your wishes in case you find yourself in a situation when extreme measures (such as life support) are needed? Having clear advance directives and discussions about life support is especially critical at this moment. Your medical providers or a social worker would be the best people to guide you through this process.
  • Advance directives for loved ones: Do you have any loved ones living at assisted-living facilities or nursing homes? It is crucial to discuss advance directives with them as soon as possible, then help communicate their wishes to the appropriate staff.
  • Prepare an end-of-life plan: Get organized when it comes to your own affairs. Start drafting an end-of-life plan (writing a will, getting a power-of-attorney in place, and other information you find important for your loved ones to know), including medical instructions, guardianship designations, and other legal contingency plans, beneficiary designations, life insurance policies, a list of passwords, key contacts, medical professionals and financial advisers. Try to gather all this information in one place so someone who needs access to that information can find it easily. There are many resources available online that could be helpful at this time. 
  • Don't neglect your feelings. Recognize the world as we knew it has changed, and it is ok to feel overwhelmed. Breathe. Let go of what you can't control, and find some peace in what you can. Here is a useful resource about managing grief during this difficult time. 

The City of Somerville’s Social Worker and Family Services Manager, Luciana Quintanilha, is available to provide guidance on this difficult topic. She can be reached at 857-270-4010 or via email at [email protected].