Pandemic 'like a magnifying glass' for mental health obstacles; organization offers virtual services

MILWAUKEE -- During a time when there is so much uncertainty, Lutheran Social Services (LSS) is maintaining important and, in some cases, life-saving resources for families.

Valerie Becke

"We've had to quickly adapt," said Valerie Becke, LSS program manager.

Like most of us, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin has needed to adjust amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Its school-centered mental health program -- offered to under-resourced communities -- is typically provided to Milwaukee children during the school day. Now, Becke said, they are capable of providing telehealth services.

Support is needed now more than ever, and interest in therapy sessions has actually grown.

Yamileth Campos

"The services have been wonderful and amazing," said Yamileth Campos, whose grandchildren receive therapy through LSS.

For Campos, the program, she said, has been a blessing. Her grandchildren attend Bruce-Guadalupe Community School, and have transitioned to virtual therapy sessions.

"It has been easy for them, because that's how they do school, too," said Campos.

Ivy Zamora is a licensed clinical social worker with LSS who helps students overcome a history of neglect or abuse, behavioral issues, ADHD, anxiety and other mental health obstacles.

Ivy Zamora

"I really enjoy community-based work," said Zamora. "This basically is like a magnifying glass. If you have a little bit of anxiety, a pandemic like this can make that anxiety feel exacerbated."

She said the same holds true for instances of domestic violence and child abuse.

"I have had parents call me when they were stressed out, and we make a plan for them to engage with their children in a healthy and proactive way so they don't take out their anger and frustrations on their children," Zamora said.

Together, they are urging those who need help to ask for it.

"We still have a taboo about mental illness," said Campos. "People that need help should reach out and not try to deal with it themselves."

The school-centered mental health program is primarily funded by grants and other donations. LSS recently established a Response Fund with the goal to raise $25,000. Those funds will provide direct support to the families who rely on the organization's services. CLICK HERE to donate.