A Guide to Mental Health Resources in Rhode Island
A guide to managing stress, finding care and supporting ourselves and our children through continuously challenging times.
It’s been a trying few years. We’re coming out of the fog of the pandemic and banishing the “new normal” to go back to the way things used to be. The adjustment hasn’t been easy for both kids and adults who are feeling the effects. But the good news is more people are seeking mental health care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020, the percentage of adults who had received any mental health treatment in the past twelve months was significantly higher than in 2019. In fact, the percentage of adults ages eighteen to forty-four who had received any mental health treatment in the past twelve months increased from 18.5 to 23.2 between 2019 and 2021. At the same time, previous research has found that symptoms of an anxiety disorder or a depressive disorder also increased from 2020 through the beginning of 2021, especially among younger adults. In this guide, we highlight ways to help children and teens navigate access to mental health care, how to find a therapist that’s right for you, and ways to support expecting mothers through pregnancy and childbirth. We also highlight stress-busting activities and meditation apps to blow off some steam and ease the pressure. We hope this resource helps Rhode Islanders weather the storm and look forward to good times ahead.
By Jamie Coelho, Edelinda Baptista, Lauren Clem, Dana Laverty and Kerri Tallman
Finding Care | Managing Stress and Relationships | Maternal Mental Health
Deciding to see a therapist can be stressful, but not if you know where to look. Here’s how to navigate nailing down a therapist for both adults and children in need of mental health care. By Jamie Coelho
Q&A: Kids in Crisis
Warren therapist Lauren Glynn (below) zones in on helping kids and young adults manage and access mental health care.
What type of a mental health toll do you think the pandemic had on kids?
Glynn: The data shows there’s a huge increase in all kinds of mental health issues with kids and teens. We’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations, not only in Rhode Island, but across the country. There are not enough outpatient mental health services, meaning kids looking for a therapist. And if there isn’t enough access to those services, they often end up in the emergency room. There’s a huge increase in anxiety, depression and eating disorders, which is what I specialize in.
Why do you think that is?
I partially think it is because of the isolation. These kids missed out on crucial developmental stages of socialization with other kids. They resorted to digital forms of social media which aren’t really conducive to socializing in a school setting or in person. They are struggling to communicate on Instagram or Snapchat and then getting into the school setting and not really knowing how to navigate social situations.
I’ve seen some of that with my own daughter, who shuts down in any social situation, but it’s getting better over time.
I’ve seen a lot of kids like that, especially kids who were in tenth or eleventh grade, and they missed this huge chunk of their high school career. Then they graduate and are sent off, but they still feel like they are in ninth or tenth grade. They don’t feel like they’re ready to be on their own. They’re struggling with anxiety, depression and pressure and feeling like they are not good enough.
How can you tell if your child is having a mental health issue? Are there signs to look for?
I think it depends on each individual kid. Parents always know their kids better than anyone else. If you have a gut feeling that something is off, you’re probably right, and it might be worth seeking services for some sort of evaluation for them. It is hard because kids are growing and changing constantly, so it’s hard to know is it developmental changes that I’m seeing, or is it that they’re having a mental health issue? The sure signs to know are if they are isolating more often, if they seem more down, sleeping a lot, eating too much or too little. Changes in energy and attention, stuff like that.
How do you bring it up with a teenager if you notice some of these signs?
Point out the things you are seeing. Saying, “I noticed after school, you used to come do your homework and hang out in the kitchen, and now you’re coming home from school and going directly to your room and you’re spending hours in there. It makes me think something isn’t right. Do you want to tell me how you have been feeling or if anything is going on?” Just noticing and recognizing that you see that they are struggling, that in itself is a huge help. A lot of times, teens may feel unnoticed, so just be present and check in on them. Sometimes parents say, “They are just teenagers, they are going to go to their room.” That’s true, but it doesn’t hurt to check in and say, “I’m thinking about you and I’m noticing these things.”
Can mental health issues be prevented in children? Are there things we can do with young children now to prevent an issue when they are older?
Not necessarily a chronic biological mental health issue, but environmental issues might be preventable. It involves having an open dialogue with your kids. When they are experiencing big emotions, sit with them and allow them to experience those emotions. Let them know it’s OK and you’re there for them no matter what. If they are able to experience the emotions and have someone to help them get through it and get to the other side, they are learning coping skills. They are learning how they are going to deal with it on their own. As a parent, showing your emotions and positive ways you are dealing with them is also a good example, because kids model after adults. If you are modeling good ways to deal with emotions, they are going to learn from you.
What are some steps a parent can take while dealing with a behavioral issue with a child? What can they do to model good behavior?
If you are having a rough day with your child, you can say, “I’m feeling really frustrated right now, so I am going to walk away and take some deep breaths and then I’ll come back.” Let them know that’s what you are going to do and they will start to do it. Or if you are in the moment, just start deep breathing. Take deep breaths and relax, because we coregulate our children. If we’re doing that, they’re automatically going to start doing that. A lot of the time, when they get amped up, we get amped up, because it’s a natural reaction. We have to do the complete opposite and it takes a lot of practice.
Once you notice there’s an issue with mental health and you’re acknowledging it and asking your child how they are doing, and yes, they say there is a problem, what’s the best way to help them?
I think it’s important to reach out to the school counselor or psychologist and check in with them to see if there’s something they can do. There’s not a waitlist as there would be to try to get counseling. This is a case where there’s some anxiety and stress, but nothing severe. You can also see if there are any social skills groups at school, or if the counselor can check in with your child once a week or something like that. Then if you think they might need counseling, you can go on psychologytoday.com and look for a therapist. Some people find this difficult because there are so many and you don’t know what to look for, but you can also go to your pediatrician’s office and ask for referrals.
What if it is a severe situation?
If it’s severe enough to where you’re really concerned about them possibly harming themselves or someone else — maybe you saw some comments on social media or you heard about something and you are
really concerned — taking them to Hasbro [Children’s Hospital] and having them go through an evaluation is helpful. I would say it’s better safe than sorry. Keep your eyes on them until you’re able to get them to services. Keep in mind that sending a kid to an emergency room to possibly be hospitalized can be extremely traumatic; they might be taken away from the parents for the first time ever. Managing it in an outpatient setting is the best bet, especially since the hospitals are really overrun. Do everything you can to keep your kid safe, including sleeping in their room that night until you can get them help.
So try not to let it get to this level where you might have to go to the ER.
A lot of parents are afraid to directly ask their kid, “Are you considering suicide?” And that’s been proven with research to be the most effective thing to do. Generally, they will tell you. Because if they are thinking it and it’s never been said out loud, then they might tell you, “Yes, I need help.” Don’t be afraid to ask. A lot of people think that if they ask, they’re going to put it in their head. But you’re not. You’re not going to convince them to do it by asking them.
How do we safeguard our children in the age of social media and the bullying that happens in that space?
I would recommend holding off as long as possible from social media unless there are child-safe websites. Monitor it and say, “I know a lot of kids are on this and you want to be on it, and I’m going to let you do that, but I’m going to monitor it because I need to keep you safe from everyone else.” Just let them know if this is what they want, this is what’s going to happen.
And it’s not just bullying you have to watch out for, especially with girls, it’s what they’re seeing as perfection that might have a negative effect too, right? Can you talk about that and “Instagram versus reality?”
That’s always been an issue with any sort of media, even advertising. I remember talking about that in school ten years ago. Now it’s so much worse, because they have so much access to it. Some of these apps are designed to cater to what they’re already looking at, so that’s what they start to see as the norm. Once you start seeing that as the norm, then you’re not normal, so that starts to impact kids, too. Getting kids involved in sports and activities is a good way to keep them busy and in reality and off social media. Come up with some things for kids to do to keep them busy.
My son is mostly into YouTube and video games, but he’s very involved in sports and activities. I’m trying to divert him and allow less screen time. Do you have any tips to divert kids from devices?
Kids want their parents to spend time with them. It can be difficult because both parents often work in the family. It’s tight on time. But if you said to your child, “OK, I’m going to give you an hour of screen time, then we are going to do [blank] together,” I think that is the best way to get them away from it, because although they might say, “I just want to play video games, I don’t want to spend time with you,” they really do. So if you’re showing them that you want to spend time with them, even if you have to make dinner and you ask them to help cook, say, “I could use your help” and give them tasks.
It helps to build that relationship that can make it stronger so that if there is an issue in the future, they are going to feel like they can come to you.
Find Glynn on psychologytoday.com or zencare.co/provider/therapist/lauren-glynn or follow her on Instagram at @laurenglynnlmhc.
Kids’ Link Can Help
When a mental health crisis suddenly strikes or you just need a referral for counseling for a child, Kids’ Link RI is a trusted resource. The behavioral health triage service and referral network is offered in collaboration with Gateway Healthcare, Lifespan, Hasbro Children’s Hospital and Bradley Hospital. Kids’ Link RI’s free, confidential phone line is 1-855- 543-5465, and it’s available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to help children and youth in need of mental health services and refer them to treatment providers. The service connects parents and caregivers to clinicians that provide children’s services in Rhode Island. lifespan.org/centers-services/kids-link-ri —J.C.
Find a Therapist
Brown University graduate Yuri Tomikawa founded Zencare to help make finding a therapist easier for all.
Searching for a therapist isn’t as daunting as it used to be. 2012 Brown University graduate Yuri Tomikawa (below) made it her mission to simplify the process in 2014 when she looked for a therapist of her own. The hunt for the perfect match began online, but she quickly grew frustrated.
Tomikawa dreamed up a better way to find a therapist by using a website that provides more personal touches. In February of 2015, alongside a team of student advisers from Brown University, Tomikawa launched a local startup called
Zencare, which featured detailed profiles of Ocean State-based mental health care professionals, as well as videos that shared their distinct styles and personalities.
It was a hit.
Years later, Zencare has now expanded into a nationwide site for potential patients to gain access to hundreds of profiles that include photographs of local providers, short videos of providers discussing their practices and free five-minute consultation booking services. Tomikawa is streamlining the search process for all, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ability, race, ethnicity, age, class or religion.
Those looking for care can browse videos and book a free phone call to find a practice that best suits them. Thanks to Tomikawa, finding therapy is now a Zen-like process. Zencare.co
Get Help Now
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, call the 24/7 statewide BH Link hotline at 988. Or you can use the Crisis Text Line to connect with a crisis coordinator within twenty-five seconds on average. Text HELLO to 988 and communicate until you feel safe. BH Link’s behavioral health facility at 975 Waterman Ave. in East Providence is also open 24/7. bhlink.org
Someone who cares is just a call away.
National Suicide & Crisis Hotline: Call 988
ANAD Eating Disorder Helpline: 1-888-375-7767
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
Latino Mental Health Network: mhnri.wixsite.com/latinomhnetworkri
National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: 1-800-950-6264
National Eating Disorder Association Hotline: Text or call 1-800-931-2237. Online chatting available.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Teen Hotline: Call 1-800-852-8336 or text TEEN to 839863
Trans Hotline: 1-877-565-8860
Trevor Project: Call 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678
Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 and press 1 or text 838255
Next page: Managing Stress and Relationships