Healing the Healers

“We know how to help the helpers. We’ve been in their shoes, on the frontlines of disasters serving people in distress. The work is incredibly meaningful, but it can take its toll.”

-Dr. Mark Evces

500+ volunteers

from 37 states have deployed 85 times, providing 3,000+ hours of disaster emotional health support.

Dante's Story

I woke up and had this great realization, “I don’t want to let my struggle with depression and anger define me anymore.”

-Dante, Participant

Whether a community has experienced a hurricane, wildfire, mass shooting, suicide or other major crises, Vibrant provides helplines, on the ground mental health support, and training for healers to help communities build resiliency and recover.

Mark R. Evces, PhD, ABPP
WorkHaven, LLC

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I’m a clinical psychologist who helps people and organizations build and access resilience during disasters. I partner with Vibrant’s Crisis Emotional Care Team (CECT) to train volunteer emotional care providers to work collaboratively with people affected by a crisis. The CECT provides just-in-time support and care for those in the acute, as well as longer term, recovery phases of a natural or human-caused disaster or crisis. I work directly with the volunteers to ensure they have access to the mental health resources and emotional support they need to thrive. Because let’s face it, mental health care workers are often overlooked when it comes to their emotional wellness. They’re seen as brave heroes, which they are, but they’re not made of Teflon. Having responded in my own professional capacity to disasters like Hurricane Katrina, I know first-hand the psychological distress that can linger for months, if not years, after a crisis.

Our trainings help the CECT learn how to prevent burnout and build resilience. I co-lead monthly meetings with a team of six CECT volunteers who have responded to dozens of disasters over the past few years. In that time together -- whether in-person or over Zoom -- we create access to a like-minded community of disaster responders. We allow these folks to process their experiences with one another and facilitate cohesion among the group. Together, they cultivate realistic hope and optimism -- a critical component to building resilience. Most importantly, we emphasize Vibrant’s self-care program. Mental health care professionals know exactly what self-care looks like -- they talk about it all day long with patients -- but applying those tenants to their own lives often falls by the wayside. Vibrant’s step-by-step self-care plan is the best out there. It’s user-friendly, comprehensive, and free.

The selfless CECT volunteers are vital to our survival, but they can’t do it alone. That’s why access to Vibrant’s training and emotional health support is critically important to their own emotional wellness. We must always remember to help those who help us.

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Delivering Immediate Support,
Anytime &Anywhere

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When the pandemic began, NYC Well, New York City's flagship go-to-resource for confidential mental health support, crisis intervention, and connection to services, had just five days to shift more than 100 crisis counselors to remote work, all while continuing to provide this lifesaving service. Katherine Polanco, Operations Manager for NYC Well, tells us how she and the counselors adapted to meet the needs of her staff, and the people they serve, practically overnight.

March 2020 was the beginning of the pandemic and New York City was at the epicenter of the global crisis. There was so much fear on the streets, in homes and across offices. No one knew what was coming and what impact it would have on all our lives. This was the backdrop NYC Well operated under in the early days of the pandemic. As New York City’s free, comprehensive crisis and support line administered by Vibrant, we knew we had to move our team to an all-virtual work environment, and it had to happen fast. We couldn’t afford to not deliver our essential services.

Over the course of just five head-spinning days in mid-March, our IT and HR departments worked around the clock preparing to transition our 100 hotline counselors into a remote workforce. This included procuring and setting up hundreds of additional headsets, computer monitors, and laptops. Our counselors remained committed to meeting the growing needs of New Yorkers, taking calls from the office until they received the necessary supplies to work remotely. And in a city where most people don’t have cars, they had to be creative to transport their devices home. I’ll never forget watching several of them pack a laptop into a backpack, a computer monitor in one hand, as they headed out the door to the subway. Their commitment ensured the hotline could respond to the spike in call volume caused by the threat of COVID-19.

As the pandemic continues, so too does the overwhelming need for NYC Well’s emotional health services. We have responded by tripling our staff, from 100 to more than 200 crisis counselors. Being able to meet the increased demand for our services has been gratifying. Our counselors are providing support to New Yorkers in emotional distress and helping people find the resources they need. This has never been more important than during this time. The counselors are the mental health heroes of this pandemic.

While this has been an intense and challenging chapter for everyone. I am proud of how our team adapted, without interrupting the support we provide to New Yorkers. We have demonstrated what we always say -- that NYC Well is here for you, no matter the time of day or the crisis you are facing. We show up for you and we give you our all.