Supporting Mental Health in the Age of COVID: Panel for Donors

A panel of mental health funders highlighted how donors can have a bigger impact on the communities and individuals struggling with the stress of COVID-19 during a recent event, “Supporting Mental Health: Guidance for Donors,” hosted by the Center of High Impact Philanthropy and Mindful Philanthropy.

Moderated by CHIP’s founding executive director Kat Rosqueta on May 25, 2021, the panel included Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., Hogg Foundation for Mental Health (UT Austin); Dr. Karen Scott, Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts (FORE); Erica Snow, Colorado Health Foundation; and Kristen Ward, Mindful Philanthropy.

The funders convened to discuss solutions for both people already dealing with mental health issues and those who before the onset of COVID-19 were at lower risk for experiencing mental health conditions.

“Syndemic is what we are actually dealing with,” said Dr. Oscar Martinez, “where you have actually multiple issues health care and political coming at the same time impacting our communities, and that’s what our communities of color are dealing with.”

In the discussion of the challenges brought by COVID, panelists noted not only the pitfalls of the situation but the solutions to the issues that arose from COVID-19 and previous conditions worsen during the pandemic. Some of these changes, including expanded access to telemedicine and destigmatization of mental health issues, may have a positive impact both at the individual and community levels as we move through and beyond the pandemic. Dr. Karen Scott pointed out that COVID-19 highlights a gap in recovery services due to the typical in-person nature of these services, and that the accelerated opening and acceptance of telemedicine treatment could be a long-lasting improvement.

Erica Snow suggested that another potential silver lining is increased level of collaboration among mental health funders and providers. She said, “We’ve seen kind of mental health is part of the discussion in schools and all sorts of employment places and you know including our funding community about how do we increase that for employees.”

Mindful Philanthropy’s Kristen Ward, who in her previous role was the lead author on CHIP’s guidance, Health in Mind: A Philanthropic Guide for Mental Health and Addiction, has found that mental health services have moved to the forefront during the disruptions and losses caused by COVID, and funders in related areas are noticing the connection. “Funders are coming to the table thinking about the well-being and youth mental health as a potential entry point for supporting mental health…thinking about the connections between mental health and other issues areas,” she said.

Learn about strategies to support to improve mental health and addiction services in Health in Mind: A Philanthropic Guide for Mental Health and Addiction, and CHIP’s follow-up guidance, COVID-19 Pandemic: Supporting Mental Health.