Three ways to help your neighbors during the pandemic | Health | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Three ways to help your neighbors during the pandemic

With social-distancing guidelines and quarantine restrictions limiting in-person interactions during the pandemic, those with mental health issues are often left isolated, without the peer support that can be helpful to get them through a rough patch.

Below are three ways you can reach out and help your Pittsburgh neighbors, who might be in need of some one-on-one support right now.

Volunteer and make a new friend
Compeer is a "friendship program for adults," matching volunteers with those recovering from mental health difficulties. Think of it like a Big Brother/Big Sister program for adults who need extra support. The program is run by Pittsburgh nonprofit mental health and education provider PLEA. It matches volunteers and people in need of one-on-one time to help "encourage positive recovery." Volunteering requires a minimum of four hours a month for one year. PLEA also offers Compeer LifeFriends, which provides group socialization, including guest speakers and women’s programming.

Sign your child up to become a pen pal
Some experts have reported that seniors are among those most at high risk of depression during the pandemic. To help, the Pittsburgh YMCA is offering a new pen pal program, pairing kids between kindergarten and fifth grade with seniors in need of some joy from a young friend. Parents don’t need to worry about safety concerns — all letters will be reviewed by staff, and no last names or addresses will be revealed to participants.

Spread some love online

Search “Healing Over Everything (H.O.E.)” on Facebook
Healing Over Everything (H.O.E.) is a virtual support group on Facebook that provides a safe space for people to openly discuss whatever issues they’re currently facing. The group is led by Ta'lor Pinkston, owner of the Heart Advocate, a nontraditional therapy practice rooted in the concept of self-love. At a time when many in-person support groups are shut down because of the pandemic, Pinkston’s group has remained constant, with 1,400 current members.

People share openly on the private Facebook group, cheer each other on, and offer advice, since some can't afford a therapist. Pinkston started the group, she told Pittsburgh City Paper in May, because at one point in her life, it was the kind of space she wished she'd had. Now, Pinkston helps both herself and her clients get through the pandemic by reminding them that they are not alone, encouraging “transparency, a strong focus on mental health, self-worth, and mindfulness.” Boosting others while also helping yourself in the process: Win win.

A friendly voice

Allegheny County Peer Support Warmline Service
1-866-661-WARM (9276)
9 a.m.-1 a.m. daily
If you're having a tough time and need someone to talk to, Pittsburgh nonprofit Peer Support and Advocacy Network’s WARMLINE is a peer-to-peer phone number set up to provide support for those in need of a friendly voice. The number isn’t a crisis line — if you’re feeling suicidal, make sure to call the re:solve Crisis Network at 1-888-796-8226 — but WARMLINE is staffed by specialists who are trained to listen and empathize, and all calls are anonymous, so there's absolutely no judgment. In addition to the Peer Support and Advocacy Network, WARMLINE is provided in partnership with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health and Community Care.

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