Mental Health Needs in a New COVID-19 World

Posted on Aug 19, 2020 by Amy Putzer

Stressed about whether it is safe for your kids to go back to school? Lonely from physical distancing? Worried that a loved one in a nursing home might get sick?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone’s mental health in ways small and large. Children, however, may be at particular risk. Living in a world that is already out of their control, they can become especially shaken when the rituals in their lives, the very day-to-day patterns they’ve come to expect, are turned upside down.

The Oshkosh COVID-19 Relief Fund is assisting nonprofits in their efforts to provide direct assistance to vulnerable individuals and families like the counseling services provided by local pediatric mental health and wellness organization, Catalpa Health.

“Children who were struggling before the pandemic are at higher risk now,” says Scott Radtke, Catalpa Health’s Clinic Operations Director. “Knowing that the uncertainty facing kids already receiving mental health services could worsen symptoms and difficulties, we quickly transitioned from in-person counseling to telehealth in March to make sure that services weren’t disrupted.”

Telehealth therapy, the delivery of services over the telephone or through a secured video connection, was a brand-new endeavor for the Catalpa team. An $11,500 grant from the Oshkosh COVID-19 Relief Fund, established jointly by the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation and the Oshkosh Area United Way, supported Catalpa’s transition to telehealth for its more than 2,000 patients in the Oshkosh area.

After the shift, Catalpa quickly noticed that many children did not have easy access to items they would typically use in a face-to-face session.

“Not having access presented a challenge for these kids within their [in home] treatment, and for the therapists who work so hard to serve them,” explains Trina Doxtator, Catalpa’s Director of Development and Marketing Communications.

The grant funding supported the purchase 81 therapy kits for Oshkosh kids participating in telehealth for outpatient therapy or intensive outpatient care.  Age appropriate kits include tools such as play-doh, books, art supplies, and journals. “These are tools with therapeutic relevance and this grant ensures no child’s session is impacted due to inability to afford an in-home kit,” adds Doxtator.

Funding also supported Catalpa staff becoming telemedicine certified and two chromebooks for telemedicine service provision.

At first, telehealth was a strange concept for families, however in a recent poll over 75% of psychiatry patients said that they preferred telehealth to face-to-face sessions because it required less time away from work and school.

As parents are coping with their own reactions to our changing world, it is important to take a moment to talk to kids about how they are coping, especially as we approach the start of school. See “Signs that your child might need help” for tips.

There are many ways to support our community in this time of need. In addition to considering a gift to the Oshkosh COVID-19 Relief Fund, residents are encouraged to continue to support the charities they care about that are struggling with diminished revenue. For more information on how to donate to the Relief Fund, please visit

Signs that your child might need help

  • Feelings of sadness or worry that is impacting a child’s ability to function
  • Regular nightmares that disrupt sleep
  • Fear of being away from parents or caregivers when that fear was not present before
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Difficulty managing emotions (anger or irritability) which may be a sign there are other things bothering the child
  • Experiencing severe mood swings or drastic changes in behavior

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