Even before the coronavirus hit, Tessandra de Alberdi and her team at Fairwinds— Nantucket’s Counseling Center already had a waitlist for their critical mental health, addiction, and family services due to the long winter season. Yet as the virus gripped the island, demand rose and de Alberdi anticipates it will continue to do so, potentially skyrocketing.
“There’s been an increase in crisis,” de Alberdi said. “People who were working on sobriety have been tested and there have been many relapses. Those who were isolated and depressed previously, now feel that it’s unbearable and we’ve had some very close calls.” She and her team have also witnessed an increase in protective services required for situations of domestic violence, neglect, and sexual abuse due to sheltering in place. Moreover, islanders who have never sought out Fairwinds now find themselves desperate for someone to talk to.
To meet this critical need, de Alberdi and her team have made all their clinicians available virtually on a HIPAA compliant digital platform where they offer free online support groups and flexible appointments— and they are taking on new clients. “There’s a lot of research out of the UK that tele-health can be as effective or more so for many people,” de Alberdi says. “As long as you’re still having that eye contact and you’re slowing down to make this a priority, it can be a wonderful connection.” Indeed, as de Alberdi expects the need to continue to grow, tele-health will be a lifesaver.
In addition to their virtual counseling services, Fairwinds has been collaborating with Faregrounds restaurant to provide meals to their clients by way of the Community Foundation’s Nantucket Fund for Emergency Relief. Yet while serving the community, Fairwinds itself is in need of support. With the canceling of its summer fundraisers and the closing of the Seconds Shop, the thrift store on Sparks Ave that helps underwrite free services and general operating costs, donations are more vital now than ever to allow Fairwinds to continue meeting the emerging mental health needs on the island.