Health and compassion for the mind and spirit

In talking to each other, we can help ourselves and each other, even at a distance.

I am moved to action by the words of spiritual care provider Tom Craighead, a retired Episcopal Priest/Social Worker:

I think of countless souls who simply need someone to be with and hear them. Facing an uncertain future or the threat of loss, many people instinctively want to talk. They may not know what they need. They might need to vent, to feel their anger, fear, or grief by speaking it. Talking helps them find their emotional footing. It often helps ground and calms them. Talking can also reconnect a person with themselves, with their life’s still-unfolding story. In this new challenge, they may begin to rediscover meaning, purpose, maybe even hope.

In talking to each other, we can help ourselves and each other, even at a distance.

The Community Care Team (CCT) is the voluntary counseling and behavioral health unit of the Vashon Public Health Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), which responds to medical and mental health needs during a disaster like the Covid-19 pandemic. Started in 2008, the care team provides resources for mental health needs, assessments and triage, individual and family support, and disaster-related emotional assistance. The care team collaborates with Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps, agency providers and VashonBePrepared.

Care team membership has grown since the start of the pandemic. The team branches support mental and spiritual health and include mental health counselors, social workers, nurse practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, priests, ministers, and other island professionals.

We know firsthand the pandemic is causing anxiety, depression, and stress from feelings of isolation and uncertainty. Anyone can call the Vashon Community Care Team Help Line at (206) 701-0694 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. We are here for emotional, psychological, or spiritual support. Leave a message if we are unable to answer, we will return all calls.

Our dedicated team offers:

  • Confidential, no-cost counseling with trained and licensed mental health professionals. The mental health helpline offers up to three sessions.
  • Confidential support from spiritual care providers. The spiritual helpline offers up to three sessions. Our spiritual care providers are island neighbors recognized for cultivating their own spirituality and compassionate listening and are not mental health experts.
  • Free online support groups with experienced facilitators and/or spiritual care providers.
  • Care team support groups presenting online Psychological First Aid to help residents and first responders.
  • Resources at with mental health (local, state, and national), spiritual health with poems, prayers, and spiritual practices (with photos from island photographers).
  • A postcard, mailed to all residents.
  • Ayuda En Espanol (888) 628-9454

The Spiritual Resources Group (SRG) is a new arm of the Community Care Team. The group works with faith organizations, poets, and others to support the spiritual health of our community. Spiritual health is not limited to and does not assume belief or religion. Care providers respect and are guided by the perspectives, values, goals and experiences of the person seeking support. There will be no proselytizing or promoting of particular religious, spiritual, philosophical, moral, lifestyle, or other frameworks.

SRG recognizes there are many spiritual communities on the island. Some are located in buildings. Others are less formal communities of belonging, meaning, care and celebration that may not consider themselves spiritual or religious, but do, in fact, feed the spirit.

We on Vashon Island live in a beautiful and peaceful place surrounded by nature and the Puget Sound with a view of the mountains. It is an island paradise.

That does not exclude us from the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty due to social distancing and isolation. Calls to practitioners in the Seattle area, including Vashon, have increased in recent weeks. People are starting to feel the effects of prolonged isolation and social distancing. They are worried about economic losses, both personally and nationally. Relationship issues have surfaced now that couples and families are in close proximity daily.

We, as a country and community, have been through events together that challenged our foundations, our connections, our livelihoods. These have rocked our world, even here on the rock. The pandemic is a challenge that has touched almost all communities, and Vashon Island, so close to the epicenter, has been part of the earliest actions to control the spread of COVID-19.

Connecting, practicing kindness, being active, helping, or asking for help — all help strengthen ourselves, our families, and our community.

Jinna Risdal is a therapist, educator, and administrator.