Virtual Mental Health And Wellness Workshop For First Responders

By Cyndi Zaweski - Long Island Weekly

Molloy University's Mental Health and Wellness Center

First responders bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Day in and day out, doctors, nurses, EMTs, health care workers, police officers, firefighters and other frontline workers risked their lives to save others during the crisis. Many were asked to perform duties outside their job description and show up to meet the unexpected.

As New York comes down on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic curve, these individuals are starting to come out of crisis response mode for the first in months. In an effort to Dr. Laura B. Kestembergcare and support these workers struggling with mental health issues including fear, depression, anxiety, exhaustion and trauma, the Molloy University Mental Health and Wellness Center is inviting doctors, nurses, EMTs, health care workers, police officers and firefighters to a free virtual COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellness Workshop on Monday, June 15 at 7 p.m.

Dr. Laura B. Kestemberg, Ph.D. associate professor, chair, associate dean and director of Molloy University Master of Science Program's Department of Clinical Mental Health Counseling, along with clinic director Kellyanne Brady, will lead the one-hour Zoom call. 

"We always wanted to give back to the health care workers and first responders, and now is the time," Kestemberg said. "We are reopening, but there are long-lasting effects for workers coming off of working so many months. In the moment, they were in survival mode-going into work and doing what they needed to do, but it affected them tremendously. Many of them described it as a 'war zone.'"

During the workshop, Kestemberg and Brady will provide awareness and coping skills geared toward health care workers and front line responders who are dealing with the mental health challenges posed by COVID-19. Throughout the presentation, there will be discussion, dialogue and an opportunity to ask questions. 

"The amount of grief and loss that these workers have experienced is different than what they've seen throughout their careers," Brady said. "Many saw individuals pass away without their loved ones around them. Giving them a space that allows them to deal with what they witnessed is an important part of this workshop." 

The workshop will also discuss self-care routines and the importance of fostering a reliable support system to help combat work-related stressors. 

"Burnout is real," Kestemberg said. "We want to address that especially during the pandemic." 

Launched last year, the Mental Health and Wellness Center at Molloy University aims to provide high-quality mental health care at a minimal fee. As a part of the college's Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master's program, the center is an education source for graduate students. Its individual, family, couple and group counseling services are supervised by a licensed mental health professional in the state of New York. Since March, the center has been offering these services 100 percent online.

Those interested in participating in The COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellness Workshop should register by emailing or by calling 516.323.3854. For additional virtual support sessions, for a full list of events open to the community.

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