The Yale Department of Psychiatry’s Psychology Section has made significant efforts to lead department and Yale School of Medicine initiatives in supporting healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jacob Tebes, PhD, Professor and Chief of Psychology at the Connecticut Mental Health Center, leads the Stress and Resilience Town Halls initiative that is providing care and support to the healthcare community especially in addressing the specific stresses that people are facing.
Under the direction of department Chair John H. Krystal, MD, Professor and Psychology Section Chief Rajita Sinha, PhD, led an effort with Kristine Olson, MD, Chief Wellness Officer for Yale New Haven Health (YNHH) System, to develop a brief anonymous stress self-assessment survey that has been implemented and now completed by over 8,000 faculty and staff across the YNHH, Yale Medicine, and Yale School of Medicine (YSM) systems. The Brief Stress Self-Assessment is linked to the Yale Care for the Caregivers website which provides resources for self-care.
Also, Samuel Ball, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at YSM, led the initiative to organize and provide free, time-limited 1:1 confidential consultation to any Yale-affiliated healthcare professional, staff, or family member experiencing significant distress related to COVID-19. Nearly 50 full-time or voluntary (clinical) faculty members from the Psychology Section along with 35 psychiatrists from our department volunteered to provide this support.
Further description of these activities is provided below.
Stress and Resilience Town Halls
Everyone experiences stress, and everyone can be resilient. That is the core belief behind the Stress and Resilience Town Halls currently conducted as part of Yale’s institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each Town Hall is co-facilitated by a faculty psychiatrist and psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry to support physicians, nurses, and healthcare staff of Yale New Haven Health, Yale Medicine, and Yale-affiliated medical institutions and groups throughout the tri-state region.
General Town Halls are conducted twice per week (initially daily) and dedicated Town Halls are available to individual departments, sections, or Yale-affiliated institutions.The process of hosting a dedicated Town Hall begins with a 45-minute introductory presentation that is requested through the Yale Care for the Caregivers website. If there is interest after an initial Town Hall, a cycle of 2-4 weekly half-hour sessions are then scheduled to be co-facilitated by two faculty from the Stress and Resilience Town Hall team.
These sessions each consist of a brief opening presentation followed by a discussion of stresses and resilience strategies experienced by medical staff. For any Town Hall, co-facilitators create a safe space for giving and receiving mutual support and advice, affirm evidence-based strategies shared, and provide a link to additional resources. Thus far, over 2,500 people have attended one of almost 100 town hall sessions.
Thus far, more than two dozen mental health professionals have generously volunteered their time to conduct Stress and Resilience Town Halls: Shelley Amen, M.D., Ph.D.; Bonnie Becker, Ph.D.; Hilary Blumberg, M.D.; Erin Carubba, L.P.C., C.K.P.M.T.; Elizabeth Connors, Ph.D.; Christine Desmond, M.D.; Flavia DeSouza, M.D, M.H.S.; Sarah Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D.; Deborah Fried, M.D.; Derrick Gordon, Ph.D.; Zachary Harvanek, M.D., Ph.D.; Ayana Jordan, M.D., Ph.D.; Richard Kravitz, M.D.; Bernadette Lecza, M.S., C.K.P.M.T.; M.D.; Lawrence Levenson, M.D.; Luming Li, M.D.; Allison Ponce, Ph.D.; Maya Prabhu, M.D., L.L.B.; Susan Rubman, Ph.D.; Anjali Sankar, Ph.D.; Lynelle Schneeberg, Psy.D.; Michelle Silva, Psy.D.; Sheryl Silverstein, Ph.D.; Raina Sotsky, M.D.; Matthew Steinfeld, Ph.D.; David Tate, Ph.D.; Jacob Tebes, Ph.D.; Ke Xu, M.D., Ph.D.; and Noka Zador, L.C.S.W.. In addition, program support has been provided by psychology doctoral/postdoctoral fellows Keisha April, M.S., J.D.; Michael Awad, Ph.D.; Brittany Miller-Roenigk, M.A.; and Corianna Sichel, M.A., and administrative and technical support has been provided by Susan Florio and Christopher Gardner.
“The faculty who have volunteered as facilitators for these Town Halls have been extraordinary,” Tebes said. “They give so generously of their time to make a difference.”
One on One Consultation and Support:
Nearly 50 full-time or voluntary (clinical) faculty members from the Psychology Section along with 35 psychiatrists from our department have volunteered to provide free, time-limited 1:1 confidential consultation to any Yale-affiliated healthcare professional, staff, or family member experiencing significant distress related to COVID-19. An initial group of departmental faculty members along with social workers from across the YNHH system received training in the Acute Stress Intervention developed by disaster mental health experts from Yale Child Study Center, Steven Marans, MSW, PhD and Carrie Epstein, LCSW. The 1:1 Professional Support Provider Service (PSPS) program is a collaborative project between the Department of Psychiatry and Child Study Center and is coordinated by Ball and Claudia Moreno, MD, who is also Medical Director for Psychiatric Emergencies and Child & Adolescent Psychiatric C&L Service at the Children’s Hospital. Nearly 70 healthcare workers requested this service in the first 2 weeks of operation and we connected to a trained 1:1 provider.
Brief Anonymous and Confidential Stress Self-Assessment Survey:
Led by Sinha in collaboration with Olson, a brief anonymous stress self-assessment survey was developed to help health care providers, faculty, and staff to identify their own overall stressors and stress symptoms that they may be experiencing. The survey focused on identifying the level of stress but also exhaustion, trauma symptoms and also mood depression, pain, fatigue, and other emotional, cognitive and physical health symptoms of stress as a way to provide feedback on how the person is doing during these challenging times and linking to resources to support their resilience and coping.