Elysse NavaElysse Nava is the caring expert on the other end of the line (or email) for Mental Health Connect and Path to Well-being. Elysse plays a vital role in the community, holding people’s hands as they navigate a wide range of mental health challenges, and helping them take their first step towards the support they need. In this brief Q&A, Elysse explains these new programs, and talks a little about the significant need they address.

Q: First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

A: Sure! After receiving my BSW and MSW I worked at a Jewish agency in New York. I found a lot of meaning in Jewish values, and in the human service mission. When I decided that I wanted to come home to Boston, I was delighted to find JF&CS. As Director of Community Resources and Mental Health Supports, I can put my experience to work in a way that directly affects so many people across our community.

Q: How would you characterize what you’re seeing in terms of community needs around mental health?

A: Overall, the need for support and services continues to increase, as does the complexity of individual situations. In many cases, people have been missing out on activities which previously brought meaning to their lives. We are also hearing from many people having a hard time meeting their basic needs, which further complicate mental health issues. It’s always been challenging to know where to turn for mental health support, and to understand what programs and services will be most appropriate—COVID has significantly increased that challenge.

Q: How does Mental Health Connect work?

A: Many of the people who call or email don’t know what help will be most effective for them. I start by assessing their specific needs; then connect them to the appropriate program within JF&CS or across the Greater Boston community. Over the past few weeks, I have spoken with 20 – 25 people per week, connecting them to resources such as our clinical case management program, Friendly Visitors program, bereavement support groups, and to another exciting new program, Path to Well-Being.

Q: Tell us a little about Path to Well-being.

A: Path to Well-being is a no-cost, six-to-eight-week Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) program accessible via laptop or app (on a tablet or smartphone). Guided by a CBT coach from world-renowned McLean Hospital, participants learn and practice proven techniques to manage stress and anxiety online. JF&CS recently launched this program in partnership with McLean Hospital and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and we are seeing a great deal of interest in it.

Q: What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

A: CBT is a treatment approach that addresses unhelpful thoughts that drive negative attitudes and behaviors. This virtual, self-paced approach provides the skills and strategies to redirect those thoughts…to “switch the train track”, so to speak. It’s truly individualized, and the skills are ones you can return to in the face of transitions and challenges that may come your way in the future.

Q: What has been most rewarding about this work?

A: I have been doing this work for a long time and I continue to be inspired by the clients I collaborate with. They really are the experts in their own situations and it’s incredibly rewarding to partner with them to bring about the change they desire in their lives.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: I know it can be difficult to reach out for help. Calling us is an important first step towards finding the services and support that can help make your day, and your life, just a little easier and more meaningful.

Mental Health Connect and Path to Well-being can be reached at 781-693-5562 or mentalhealth@jfcsboston.org.