On March 25, 2020, the Summit County Health Department issued a Stay-At-Home Order for all residents of Summit County, Utah. That same day, Summit County resident, Julie*, called the CONNECT Summit County Peer Navigation Line desperate for help in making contact with her 24-year-old son, Nate*.
Four days prior, Nate had been admitted to a psychiatric facility in Salt Lake City. Julie and her family were not allowed to visit him due to the pandemic restrictions. She was having a difficult time finding out how he was doing from hospital staff and couldn’t reach him to let him know the family was being prevented from visiting.
This was all new territory for Julie and her family. This was Nate’s first time experiencing mental health symptoms that were serious enough to lead to his hospitalization. Julie had no idea what to do next or how to deal with this new challenge. She had been volunteering at a local humanitarian organization and a counselor there suggested she call the CONNECT Summit County Peer Navigation Services number.
When Julie called, she was, understandably, very anxious on many levels. She was deeply concerned by the mental health challenges facing her son and uncertain about how to move forward in supporting him, as well as trying to understand the ambiguous process and procedures of a mental health inpatient hospitalization. All of this was further complicated by the added stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Julie needed to share her emotional distress with someone who could understand. She called the Peer Navigation Services line and spoke with Linda Steadman CONNECT Summit County’s peer navigator who has the lived experience of loving, living with and supporting persons experiencing mental health and addiction challenges.
Julie shared with Linda how she had observed alarming changes in her son’s behaviors in recent weeks that led to his hospitalization. She reported that he seemed “different” and “changed” when he returned from spring break. She described some of the out-of-character and strange things he was doing and saying. She talked about the Nate she knew and the Nate who was scaring his girlfriend and his family enough to warrant being hospitalized.
As she talked about the ordeal that her son and family had been experiencing recently and received an empathetic and understanding response, she felt some relief. She was able to articulate her concerns and frustrations and ask questions about what she could do to contact her son and get information from the hospital. Linda was able to give her some guidance and suggestions for advocating for her son. Julie was grateful for the information and became more hopeful that her family would be able to get through this.
Armed with good information, Julie was empowered to continue advocating for her son and decided to do extensive research around her son’s symptoms so that she could be ready to take the next steps in supporting her son upon discharge. Linda encouraged Julie to call back if she needed to talk to someone and/or needed more information or guidance. Julie promised to be in touch and thanked Linda profusely for being there for her.
Circling Back to Hope
Linda didn’t hear back from Julie for ten days and decided to call and check on her. Julie told her that since the schools had closed and she now had the added responsibility of homeschooling her younger children she had been overwhelmed and too busy to call. She was touched that Linda cared enough to call and check on her. She shared her frustration with this new development and Linda was able to provide her with information and support around it.
Julie also updated Linda on her son, Nate. While in the hospital, he had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Julie had questions about medications, finding a local psychiatrist and how his transition home from the hospital would go. Julie also expressed concern about her younger children adjusting to the situation and asked for help finding a family therapist. Linda was able to speak with Julie from her own lived experience and the experience of others about her areas of concern. Linda also provided Julie with helpful information on local psychiatrists, family therapists and targeted information and resources on Bipolar Disorder.
A week later Julie inquired about support groups and individual therapists for herself because she was starting to feel extremely depressed and overwhelmed since Nate had returned home. Linda was able to link her to the appropriate family support groups and sent her information on local individual therapists.
A couple of days later, Julie called to find out about support for her son Nate. He was feeling isolated and was interested in talking to some other young people with mental illness. Linda did some research and was able to share information with Julie about an organized group for young adults who meet online, socialize and talk about their own mental health challenges.
Linda called to check on Julie a few days later. Julie said that they were doing relatively well and that they were still in the process of accessing the help and resources available. Julie said that Linda had been a “godsend.” She reported that she, her family and her son would not be doing nearly as well if it hadn’t been for the continuous kind and compassionate support and valuable guidance that Linda had provided to them in their time of great need.
Julie told Linda, “I wish to commend CONNECT Summit County on all the work you are doing to support those who are struggling with mental health. Linda and CONNECT Summit County have made a difference in my family’s life and I can see the progress that CONNECT is making around mental health in our community. Thank you, CONNECT Summit County!”
*Names and some identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.
About Peer Navigation Services
Connect Summit County’s Peer Navigation Services helps all individuals and their family members in Summit County find the support, information, services, treatment facilities, providers and/or other resources that best meet their current behavioral health needs, which is particularly challenging while social distancing. Our Certified Peer Support Specialists have the lived experience of having a behavioral health condition and/or a family member who has the lived experience of supporting an individual with a behavioral health condition. You may access CONNECT Summit County’s Peer Navigation Services by calling or texting (435) 776-HELP (4357) or by emailing [email protected] We will respond to you within two business days. Note: We are NOT a crisis line or counseling service.