The Josselyn Center, an outpatient mental health center that has been in Northfield since 1951, has been making significant changes in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. President Susan Resko has been leading the organization for 5 years, following a long career in behavioral health advocacy and management.

“It’s completely changed our business. For the past 3 years, we had been doing tele-psychiatry so we were pretty quickly able to retool. Now we’re doing 100% of our services via video conferencing. While it’s made a big impact, we were lucky because we had been doing tele-psychiatry for years on a small scale. We had the technology in place and our staff was trained, so we were able to turn that around pretty quickly.”

The Center was founded by child psychiatrist, Dr. Irene Josselyn to provide mental health care for children. Since that time, their services have expanded to all age groups, and services offered have expanded to include walk-in assessment, individual and group therapy, psychiatry, psychological testing, a drop- in center and living room (an alternative to the ER for those in crisis), supported employment, and therapeutic day camps for children.

Amid the Coronavirus chaos, Resko said that the pandemic and social distancing can affect many people physically, mentally, and emotionally. Being stuck quarantined in one’s house with Coronavirus updates swirling the internet is not good for the body or the mind.

“Many people are feeling anxiety, isolation and fear right now, and a lot of people are calling us wanting to talk to somebody about that.”

“We’re actually watching and learning as we see how people react to therapy utilizing video conferencing, and we anticipate that it’s here to stay. Certainly, some people will want to return to face-to-face conversation. But for those who prefer video conferencing, we want to make sure we’re ready to support them.”

Another change the Josselyn Center has made for the pandemic is offering free counseling sessions to first responders.

“We are offering this service to any first responders— fire, police, EMT, or hospital staff—because we know that their work is very traumatic and stressful right now. They are out there saving lives while neglecting their families and their own needs. They’re just so brave and we want to be able to support them. A number of professional private therapists have volunteered their time to provide this service to these heroes.”

The change was made after 5 members of the Center staff had shown Coronavirus symptoms. One was in the hospital and is now recovering. The Josselyn Center is very grateful to have the volunteers. Especially after the pandemic, the Center wants to make sure they can provide support to anyone who needs it.

“Before this happened, The Josselyn Center was growing quite fast, and we wanted to make sure we had the infrastructure in place to serve everyone who calls us. If people are feeling scared, lonely, depressed, or they have cabin fever, it’s great to talk to someone. Josselyn’s services are very affordable; we work with most insurance companies, and we want to help people get through this difficult time.”

Resko explained that because such measures are being taken to prevent the spread of Coronavirus such as social distancing and quarantining, that even after the preventative measures lessen, those feelings of fear and anxiety will not just disappear immediately.

“This is obviously a very scary and traumatic time for people, and those feelings are not going to go away when social distancing suddenly ends. People really need to deal with these feelings now. If they’ve had any sort of traumatic event in the past, it magnifies what’s happening now. Plus, with everybody having time on their hands, it’s really good to talk to someone. Deal with your fear now as opposed to thinking that it’s just going to go away, because it might not.”

Aside from talking with somebody, there are many other ways one can work to feel better physically and emotionally while stuck at home. Resko mentioned one way is by exercising and that there are many zoom classes and free videos available. Resko also mentioned other ways to combat fear and anxiety.

“Reminiscing with family members, going through old photos and looking back at happy times, and talking with friends can help you feel better. Social distancing does not mean social isolation—you can host a virtual happy hour, virtual tea time, or virtual lunch to connect with friends. There are many ways to stay connected.”

Throughout the process of switching to virtual help, one benefit the Josselyn Center has discovered is that video conferencing is a method more accessible and preferable to some.