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Helping Clients During Hard Times

Please scroll to the bottom to find professional resources to help youth and families respond to/ cope with community unrest, grief and loss, violence, racism, distress and trauma etc.


Mindful breathing techniques can help to reduce the intensity of an emotional/behavioral outburst. They can also be used to focus, relax, or reduce anxiety. In our Collaborative, families and providers teach each other their favorite breathing techniques and share them at our trainings and wellbeing events.

I watch parents use these techniques and I'm always impressed by how well they work! A mom will rub her teen's back and help him do "belly breathing" or a dad will help a child "blow her fingers down." As their children calm down, I often hear the parent repeating the same phrase...

"Breathe, baby. Just breathe."

A few weeks ago, a colleague shared an African Proverb with me. It says: "Life is your ability to breathe out every time you breathe in."


During COVID-19, we have tried to stay connected with our families through phone calls, texting, and online meetings. During this time, we've noticed that people often use the word "breathe" to describe how they are feeling.

  • Stuck inside, many parents and kids said they felt like they couldn't find enough personal SPACE to breathe.

  • Juggling work and family, parents said they were so busy they could hardly find TIME to breathe.

  • Worry and stress led many families to share that they were so SCARED they couldn't breathe.

  • And, of course, COVID-19 is a virus that can physically impact a person's ability to breathe. When we lost one of our grandma volunteers to COVID, many families expressed distress in thinking about her final moments and her struggles to breathe.

George Floyd

George Floyd's death calls us to think about the word *breathe* in a new way. Headlines replay his final words and protestors reframe them to reflect the pain of a community that feels the same... "I can't breathe!"

After the news about George Floyd broke, a different colleague emailed another African Proverb to me. This one says: "The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth." I have been thinking about these 2 African Proverbs and how they relate to our community today.

What is our professional response? Is it enough for us to encourage families to practice coping techniques like mindful breathing? What meaning does this hold now? What more can we do?

In the last week, we've heard from hundreds of families...

  • checking in to let us know they are safe

  • letting us know they are fleeing their homes to find safety

  • asking for support to access medication, food/supplies or transportation

  • telling us about their anxiety and trauma responses and asking for culturally-specific therapists/ helpers.

We've heard from families with children who are sleeping under their beds or behind couches, thumb- sucking, bed wetting, fighting with siblings etc.

So many children and teens have seen the video of George Floyd's death. Some have participated in the protests or seen the riots and looting up close. Others have heard sirens and gunshots while sitting in their living rooms. And, most have watched the news clips and social media posts of fires, people with guns (or bows and arrows!), a semi truck plowing into a crowd, police in riot gear, tear gas, and armored trucks. We know that these images and experiences can have deep and long lasting impact.

Faced with the combined stress of COVID-19, the pain of systemic racism, and the current communty unrest... it is logical for parents and kids (and, providers!) to feel anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, despair, powerlessness etc.

How can parents, family-service providers, and community members help youth cope and thrive?

  • This is an RCCMHC resource. It is a virtual space to focus, relax, calm, or reduce the intensity of difficult emotions. (And yes- there are some breathing exercises!)

  • This is an RCCMHC resource. It includes local services and supports. Please watch for updates on faith-based community responses, local Venting Circles, virtual healing spaces, and other culturally-specific resources. Open Mental Health Services/ "Listening Helpers" and Basic Needs Resources will be added to our Community Bulletin Board throughout the day.

  • This short page of resources suggests 6 ways to support youth: 1) Listen, 2) Prepare, 3) Protect, 4) Modeling, 5) Safety Plan, and 6) Self Soothing.

  • This resource helps parents, rescue workers and community members to support youth who have witnessed or experienced distressing events. It describes common responses to trauma according to age group. And, it recommends ways to help in the first days and weeks.

  • This interview was published in USA Today. If you click on the link, it will take you to a Google document. The words of the interview are the same but the ads and some graphic images have been removed. The document includes a link to the original article.

  • This is a long and detailed guide (60 pages.) But, you can skip to the sections that are most useful for you. Examples include: children’s reactions at different stages of development, hands-on advice for parents and school staff, grief and loss, and red flags/warning signs.

  • In this article, the National Association of School Psychologists shows us how to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in adults and kids, how to manage anger, and what to do with more serious symptoms or symptoms that last more than a few weeks.

  • Stress from a traumatic event can often lead to a variety of sleep problems. This is a list of ideas to recognize sleep problems and help improve sleep.

  • This resource describes possible trauma reactions according to age. It offers age-specific ideas to support recovery and tips for talking to youth after the traumatic experience.

  • This toolkit was released by the Association of Black Psychologists and Community Healing Network in 2016- at a time of crisis for the African American Community. It was "developed by and for people of African ancestry ­­to comfort and inspire us in these difficult times. It provides resources to help us take care of ourselves and each other, and strengthen our sense of community for the journey ahead."

  • My Brother’s Keeper was started so that every boy and young man of color in America would know that their dreams mattered as much as any other child’s. Their main page hosts a video of President Obama speaking about George Floyd on 06/03/2020

  • Learn more about the issues related to police use of force.

  • This page of resources was compiled by the National Child Traumatic Stress Netowrk. It includes a field operations guide and tips for adults/youth after disaster, tips for relaxation etc.

  • This short parent guide suggests ways to support children who have been directly or indirectly exposed to a traumatic event.

For Teens

  • This short document describes common reactions to mass violence, tips for self-care and suggestions for connecting with other youth going through the same thing.

  • This is a resource written for youth/teens which talks about community violence and trauma and suggests some ways to repond.

For Providers

  • Learn strategies to prevent or reduce Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS). STS is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another.

Blog for Family Service Providers

  • This is an RCCMHC resource. Please visit this page to find local resources and ideas for professionals. This includes self-care ideas and a list of free help for helpers.

This list is not enough. It could never be enough. But it's a place to start. And when in doubt, we should remember our parents who would wisely tell us to...

Breathe, baby. Just breathe.

If YOU have any resources to add to this list, please email


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