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When this Covid-19 journey began in March of 2020, we never expected it to become such a political can-of-worms. Although the disease itself was very real, there is no doubt that it was used for geopolitical purposes by political groups competing for power and access to resources. This created even more trauma for some than the pandemic itself. There was a loss of trust and what trauma researchers refer to as "a moral injury." 

We aren't taking sides politically, but want to direct our energy into seeking constructive solutions. To do this, we want your input. Our graduate student intern is conducting a community-based needs assessment study to identify the changing needs of children, youth, and families. The results of this study will be used to develop new programs needed for post-traumatic growth as we emerge from the pandemic. Paper copies of the survey are being sent out to some key informants in Southwestern Pennsylvania communities, but we want to hear from you, as well. Everyone who visits this website is welcome to participate. You can respond anonymously or, if you want a copy of the study results, you can leave a first and/or last name and an email address so that we know who to send the results to. 

The survey instrument is very short and will only take a few minutes of your time. To see a copy of it, just click on the NEEDS ASSESSMENT tab and then cut-and-paste it into an email. You can answer the questions right in the email itself OR paste the questions into a document file. Once completed, send your responses to intern@deerwoodfamilyservices.org. If you would prefer an emailed copy of the survey to write on, just send your request to admin@deerwoodfamilyservices.org.


 For some people the messages that are coming with this Covid-19 isolation are: "You are on your own;" "No one can help you;" and "No one wants to help you." These messages are depressing and anxiety-provoking at a time when it's already scary out there because we are dealing with a pandemic. Let's try re-thinking this. Let's change the message from one of "You must stay home" to one of "You get to stay home." We have all been drafted into a public heath corp and can think of ourselves as soldiers, soldiers who are asked to fight this pandemic by simply staying home and following the sanitation, safe-practices, and hygiene procedures our health departments are telling us to use.  

 During the time of unwanted change that comes with this pandemic there are some don’ts and do's that may be helpful.  


Be reckless

Feel guilty that you have negative/bad feelings because you are contending with the isolation

Use drugs or alcohol to escape your negative feelings

Hide your feelings from yourself or friends

Become disrespectfully self-critical, for example blaming yourself for falling apart at times

Give up on your dreams for a better future that doesn’t include being isolated from others


Face what’s happened; accept the “new normal” that will continue in order to help ensure health and safety during this time. It is important to acknowledge your loss of freedom and remind yourself that it is for a good cause. It may help to reflect on the bigger issues at stake, e.g., welfare of the community and the nation.

Consider that anxious feelings can be a common reaction to a new stressful situation.

Learn to view your situation from the standpoint of what you have going for you.

When you must step out of your home, have a plan of action with safety in mind. (Check with the CDC website for recommendations and guidelines)

Connect virtually. Express your emotions with people you trust using technology and not through personal contact.

Greet each day with a purpose; essentially form a “game plan” for the day. Set a few realistic and achievable goals and allow yourself to succeed in    achieving them. For example, identify activities you can enjoy within your home and begin to engage in them. Choosing to be active within the confines of your home might include cooking, organizing, reading, tidying up, writing for publication or for keeping a journal, indoor gardening, playing games, doing artwork or crafts, carpentry, practicing for a sport, learning something new, exercising/yoga, …some exercise (even little amounts help). Also, research indicates  that self-relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, and prayer that is consistent with your religious beliefs/worldview can be effective. Tutorials for these activities can be found online. 

Use this time to make sure you are getting enough ZZZZZZZZ’s and hydration. Adequate sleep and water are important.

Think of three positive memories from anytime is your life, past and recent. Focus on your positive experiences, accomplishments (even small ones!) and good relationships. Next associate each one of these positive memories with three different areas/locations/objects in your personal space.  Later walk around your living space pausing at each of these areas to recall the positive memory at least once a day.

Do things which stimulate your thinking, allow you to concentrate on something positive or if you are stuck in a cycle of negative thinking contact      someone who is realistically positive about the current situation. Perhaps, at this time, you have no positive thinking people in your life. Consider      seeking out online counseling or a psychological consultation. Call us to schedule a virtual appointment.

Be patient with yourself as you work your way to adjusting to the isolation.

Plan ahead for better times and how you will celebrate when the health crisis is over.


  • What are the current facts?
  • How can I think realistically about what I can do?
  • What are my options?
  • Am I stewing rather than doing?

Exchange your problem solving and coping ideas with others who use this website by calling us at 724 733-2928 or by emailing us at admin@deerwoodfamilyservices.org so that we can post them here on our website under the YOUR PLACE dropdown area in the BLOGS AND CREATIVE ARTS tab. Add verses to the covid-19 limerick started on St. Patrick's Day, write a blog, post a picture or video of how you're coping.

Information on Traumatic Stress

Traumatic stress responses include a variety of symptoms including psychological numbness with intermittent episodes of affect dysregulation. "Affect dysregulation" is professional jargon for "meltdowns." In addition, there can be intrusive thoughts that get in the way of our being able to focus on the things that we are trying to do. Hypervigilence, a chronic hyper-alert scanning for danger, is a symptom that is actually being encouraged right now with the danger being an invisible virus that can be just about anywhere. This hypervigilence is needed right now, but it can be emotionally exhausting.

Sleep disturbances are another symptom of traumatic stress responses, along with unexplained, seemingly illogical behaviors and physical symptoms that can actually be behavioral or somatic (physical) flashbacks from earlier events that one lived through at an earlier stage of life. These flashbacks can be emotional, as well. Add these to impaired sleep, and being locked into a household with others, and we have a perfect storm for conflict.

When an emotional, behavioral or physical flashback occurs, the person having the flashback (and others witnessing it) can think that they are "acting or being crazy." They aren't. Traumatic responses are what happens in normal people who are dealing with something very abnormal that is happening---or has happened--to them. Trauma is happening to all of us right now. Please don't judge or negatively label others during this time of crisis. Remember that we are all in this together and we all have to choose constructive ways to respond. We'd like to help you with this.

This is a time for using distress tolerance skills. We can review some extremely helpful evidence-based ones with you, along with other strategies that help with flashbacks and trauma-related symptoms. This is also a time to focus on cultural buffers traditionally used to help with traumatic stress. Every culture has some of these wonderful buffers. They can be found in the cultural traditions, spiritual and worldview beliefs, rituals, songs and stories, religious practices, and even in special ethnic foods served on special occasions. Ballads, works of art, and stories can serve as cultural buffers. Help us create one by adding some versus to the Covid-19 limerick in the YOUR P:ACE section of this website (under the BLOGS AND CREATIVE ARTS tab).

Information on Depression

You might think of depression merely as sadness. And, in fact, many people who suffer from depression don’t even know it because they don’t feel sad, they just feel “different.” That’s because depression involves many symptoms, including:

·         Irritability

·         Anger

·         Feeling empty

·         Inability to cry

·         Apathy/lack of feelings

·         The inability to experience pleasure or joy

·         Loss of interest in activities

·         Lack of motivation

·         Pessimism or hopelessness

·         Feeling worthless or guilty

·         Feeling like life isn’t worth living

Depression also has many associated physical symptoms such as:

·         Loss of energy

·         Difficulty thinking, concentrating or paying attention

·         Muscle tension

·         Feeling tired and worn out

·         Feeling slowed down or restless

·         Changes in your appetite (increase or decrease)

·         Changes in your sleep (too much, too little, restless sleep)

·         Feeling tired and worn out

Anxiety Signs and Symptoms

•         Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness

•         Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts

•         Repeated thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences

•         Nightmares

•         Ritualistic behaviors, such as repeated hand washing

•         Problems sleeping

•         Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet

•         Shortness of breath

•         Palpitations

•         An inability to be still and calm

•         Dry mouth

•         Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

•         Nausea

•         Muscle tension

•         Dizziness

•           Can be anything where the anxiety reaction is inappropriate to the situation


Anxiety may be due to a primary psychiatric disorder, OR secondary to:

–        Substance abuse

–        A medical condition

–        Another psychiatric condition

–        Psychosocial Stressors


If you’re depressed or have anxiety, lifestyle changes and other do-it-yourself strategies are not a substitute for professional help. If you are already seeing a therapist and/or using medication, don’t hesitate to reach out to that professional for crisis sessions or additional resources. If you are using an anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication, please do not try to make changes related to that medication on your own. Never give others that medication or try a medication that was prescribed for someone other than yourself. Not only is this illegal, but it can also do a great deal of harm. Call your county mental health crisis number if you or someone you are close to needs emergency mental health support and your regular provider is not immediately available.  There are many things that you can try to help yourself feel somewhat better—and they don’t cost a dime.

Some of these things include exercising, having talk time with a supportive person, relaxing activities, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and avoiding alcohol. People everywhere are figuring out new ways to use technology to interact with their family members, with loved ones, with old and new friends, and with supportive people from the more formal social support systems available throughout the world, thanks to the Internet. Reach out to get something started. We have heard of groups using on-line visual platforms to play cards together, to watch and discuss movies, podcasts, and even YouTube videos or TV shows together, and to work on projects or hobbies together.

E-mail is not confidential, so you need to call us and leave a message on the voicemail to contact us if you do not get an immediate answer. Our number is 724 733-2701 or 2928. If you are in an immediate crisis, your county mental health crisis line is the best number to call or 911. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1 800-273-8255.


For more detailed information on anxiety and depression refer to:




April 6, 2020 Update: Some Additional Thoughts Regarding Children

As this pandemic crisis and communal social distancing policy continues beyond the initial two-week period that we first heard about, we are witnessing a number of responses among children that signal an urgent need for crisis intervention. Here's a list of some of the things to watch for:

Fear of anything that could possibly be contaminated overgeneralizing to a fear of touching, using, and/or eating in general;

Anger that is being externalized and projected onto siblings, parents, and even pets;

Agoraphobia, an irrational fear of going outside at all...even to the extent of keeping curtains and blinds closed all day;

Oppositional defiance involving extreme risk-taking behaviors, risks not just associated with catching the virus, but risks about other things, as well;

Regressive behaviors, behaviors that would be typical of a child who is age four or younger;

Sleep disturbances that affect cognitive functioning and ability to focus during the day, especially when it comes to completing academic activities from home.

Loss of any empathic ability demonstrated before this pandemic occurred.

False assumptions, self-blame, and other cognitive distortions created by the child, in his or her mind, in an attempt to make sense of a pandemic that they can't understand;

Self-harm and/or harm-to-others.

If you are seeing any of these disturbing behaviors, please call us (724 733-2928) or call your county crisis-line for crisis intervention assistance. Deerwood Family Services is keeping at least three hours available daily for rapid, tele-health, crisis intervention responding with children and families. These hours range from 6 to 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. 

We are also seeing some amazing signs of resilience and strengths among the children we work with or have contact with. Many of them are applying the distress tolerance skills we taught them previously in ways that are actually helping their parents and others cope. Don't be discouraged if the child your are with is not one of these resilient little helpers. Children change during a crisis. The changes that occur can be positive ones, especially if they know that someone cares enough about them to try to help. Sometimes the changes associated with that little bit of help are seen immediately. Sometimes, those changes don't show up until years later, but they tell us---years later---that the crisis they went through, and that little bit of caring and help that they received during the crisis, made all the difference. We call it "post-traumatic growth" and it is very real and long-lasting.

We are all in crisis right now. It is too easy for adults to lose their empathy when in crisis. This is empathy that the children have to have if they are going to come out of this with post-traumatic growth as opposed to post-traumatic stress disorder. Please do not wait to call for help. Neither you, nor we, will ever know or get credit for what we prevented. We have a responsibility to do that prevention work now so that we can try to insure that the children and youth of our generation come through this pandemic with resiliency characteristics that will carry them through the later crisis situations that come with the vulnerabilities of life. Helping the young people we are able to have contact with is something that all of us can do. Some of us can't be with our children or grandchildren right now for safety reasons. It hurts us, but it hurts them even more. If this is the situation you are in, think about giving that smile, communication, or resource that you would share with your own to someone else's child. You might be the only one who is able to demonstrate that "caring enough to try" that will make the difference between post-traumatic growth versus post-traumatic stress disorder in their later life. 

Copyright:2020 Deerwood Family Services