The Forecaster Newsletter
Newsletter of your Employee Assistance Program
Far West Family Services - 206-682-8149
Fall 2020 - Back to School Edition
Welcome to the Back to School Edition of the Far West Newsletter.
New look. New design. We hope you like it.

We are here when you need us.
Welcome to the start of the 2020-21 school year!

Far West Family Services is your Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) provided as part of your school district benefits package. Through your EAP, you and your immediate family are eligible to receive mental health counseling at no cost to you. Our services are currently available on Zoom or by phone, by appointment. To access these services, call 206-682-8149, Monday – Friday, 8:30am to 5pm.
We also provide this mental health newsletter. This issue is tailored to address the pressing issues due to the Coronavirus pandemic and shutdown. These are incredibly difficult times on so many levels—personally, communally, nationally, and internationally. Grief, loss, and trauma abound. Below are resources, tools, and words of hope and inspiration that we hope will provide you support during the opening days and weeks of the 2020-21 school year.
Never before have educators faced so many challenges to providing a quality education. Confusion and updated policies resulting from the reality of an impending rise in COVID-19 cases this fall have caused district leaders to devise and revise last-minute plans for full online schooling.
Administrators are bearing a most difficult role as they manage a situation over which they ultimately have little control. They are to be applauded. Teachers are rushing to redesign curriculum that’s better suited for online classes, with a deep commitment and desire to reach ALL their students and to communicate caring and concern for each one. Para-educators, secretaries, counselors, bus drivers, food service workers and other support professionals are scrambling for new ways to adjust to this “new normal” and provide the best experience for every child. We applaud them too.

Through these past months of this troubling pandemic, it has become immensely clear that our schools are the bedrock of our society, the key to our collective well-being and our future. Will the kids be okay? Yes, eventually. Will their education suffer? Maybe. But because of the commitment of educators like you, children and teens will bounce back, and they will catch up. Some kids will struggle and fall behind more than others—and that is the biggest challenge in education this year. Learning occurs best in an environment that feels safe and caring. What they need most is to see is your kind, big heart.
Educators are heroes who are showing all of us how to face some very big societal issues uncovered by the pandemic. As they focus on issues related to race and equity, services for students of all abilities, protecting the safety of the adults and children in schools, and how to be wonderfully imaginative and creative in teaching, educators are showing us what our priorities should be. The health and well-being of all people is front and center.

We want to remind you that Far West is here to support you. We can help boost your tools for anxiety management, resilience, emotional and social learning, and compassion for yourself and others.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out for support.
Diana Nielsen & Katie Frisbie
Owners of Far West Family Services
"Whatever you’re doing for others is enough. We are constrained by an inconceivable set of circumstances. Although none of us alone can do enough to make the difference, together we are all doing enough to make difference. And for now, that’s what we can do."
~ Cheri Lovre, Crisis Management Institute

Washington State Department of Health
Forecast on Mental Health Issues for the Next Three Months

The Washington State Department of Health is predicting a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases this fall as we move back indoors into tighter spaces that will make social distancing hard. The department is also predicting an increase in mental health issues between October and December. Our sense of isolation will increase as the days get shorter, darker, and wetter and the reality sinks in that virus-related restrictions could continue for months. The stress around the coming presidential election adds to the mental health challenges. The Department of Health also predicts a rise in domestic violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide.
While it will be difficult to plan contingencies for events that might occur over the next three to four months, it is a good idea to make plans for additional family support, intentional social connection, exercise, and a healthy diet. Plan now to work on skills of resiliency, anxiety management, and interpersonal communication.

Here is a link to the complete report on Mental Health PDF
"12 Tips for Practicing Effective Self-Care" from the Crisis Management Institute

Mental Health Support for People of Color

The demonstrations following the death of George Floyd have presented to Far West an opportunity to improve our awareness of the unique mental health needs of people of color who are dealing with complex trauma or lived experiences of racism. Now, Far West can connect you with counselors of color who are additionally trained to deal with issues of racism, discrimination, and white privilege, both at work and in society. Call the office to discuss your counseling needs. 206-682-8149.

More information on website

“Trouble creates a capacity to handle it…meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms with it.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Feeling Too Much Anxiety?
You're not alone!

Many of our clients have expressed tremendous levels of anxiety, stress, and panic in facing the opening of the new school year. Some are also dealing with past traumas that have resurfaced during the shutdown—or fresh traumas around death and illness from the COVID-19 virus among family and friends. If you are struggling with any of these issues or are having panic attacks, you’ll find links to some helpful resources below. Far West counselors are also available to help you and your family members develop new skills for coping with these stressful times.

Ten Cognitive Reminders for Coping with Panic Attacks. Download PDF
Anxiety and panic resources:
Coping with trauma:
Tools for parents: "Anxiety and Coping with the Coronavirus" ChildMind Institute
Ten Cognitive Reminders for Coping with Panic Attacks
1.    Remember that although your feelings and symptoms can be very frightening, they are not dangerous or harmful. The key to calming is controlled breathing.

2.    Understand that what you are experiencing is an exaggeration of your normal bodily reactions to stress. Slow your breathing. 4 in .... 6 out.

3.     Do not fight your feelings or try to wish them away. The more you are willing to face them, the less intense they will become.

4.     Do not add to your panic by thinking about what “might” happen. If you find yourself saying “what if,” tell yourself “so what!”

5.      STAY IN THE PRESENT. Notice what is really happening to, you as opposed to what you think might happen. Practice long exhalation.

6.     Label your fear level from 0 to 10, and watch it go up or down. Notice that it does not stay at a very high level for very long.

7.     When you find yourself thinking about fear, CHANGE YOUR PRIMARY THOUGHT. Focus on and carry out a simple and manageable task. Drink a glass of water.

8.     Notice that when you stop adding frightening thoughts to your fear, it begins to fade.

9.     When the fear comes, expect it, and accept it. Wait and give it time to pass without running away from it.

10.  If there is residual energy, shake it off. Take a walk, exercise, dance, punch a pillow. Do something physical to release it from your body.
Adapted from the work of J. Wayne Eastlack, PhD.
by Julia Ingram, M.A.

Download a PDF
Is your relationship unraveling in the pandemic?
Challenges of being together 24/7

We've worked with a lot of couples over the last seven months. The most common complaint? Too much time together. It’s not always great for a relationship. Existing cracks in some relationships have gotten wider, stretching the relationship to the breaking point. Perhaps it is a good time to work on your relationship because there is so much time together. Here are a couple of articles that might give you a start on healing the cracks.

How COVID-19 Affects Marriage—and How to Adapt
Here are three realistic things you can do to make things right.
Apr 27, 2020 Psychology Today

Eight Tips for Avoiding a COVID-19 Divorce
How to keep your relationship healthy while you’re both working remotely.
Mar 26, 2020 Psychology Today

September is Suicide Prevention Month
Helping vulnerable teens and young adults

The Washington State Department of Health Forecast on the Behavioral Health Impacts from COVID-19 lays out a troubling picture of the next three to four months. Cases of COVID infection are expected to peak again—and so are mental health challenges. The report states:
"In Washington, the highest risk of suicide will likely occur between October and December 2020. This is consistent with known cycles of disaster response patterns. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) worsens mental health challenges at this time of year due to increased hours of darkness and inclement weather. Winter holidays can also worsen mental health challenges for many people, as they are often an emotionally and financially difficult time of year.” PDF of full report

The rates of suicide and suicidal thinking in teenagers are  on the rise. With the loss of so many things that teenagers depend upon for emotional health, their thoughts can get pretty dark and their coping skills for this kind of situation are limited.
It is important for parents to pay close attention and open the conversation before things get serious. If you have any concerns that your child may be thinking of suicide—ask. Be gentle and direct: "Are you having thoughts about self-harm or suicide?" Then listen.
Some parents brush off a child's admission of suicidal thoughts as manipulation or trying to get attention. While most young people will not take their own lives, it is important to understand that your teen may be experiencing extreme emotional pain. Listen without judging or trying to talk them out of it. Logic doesn't work here. Your conversation should be about emotion and a physical felt sense of fear, overwhelm, and dread.
So many things are out of a child’s control, and the losses they’re experiencing are great. These helpful tools from Start Talking Now can help you and your children and teens navigate the challenges of life under COVID:
Be calm: Children will pick up on your behavior and reactions. Reassure your children that your family is safe and discuss the steps you are taking to make sure your family is safe and healthy.
Be available: Give your children the opportunity to share their feelings. They may push back at times. Keep trying, so they know someone who will listen is there for them. Tell them how much you care about them and help them put their concerns into perspective.
Be a role model: Modeling healthy ways to deal with stress—like exercising, getting outside, meditating, or reading—is important for your well-being and teaches your children healthy ways to manage stress.
If your child does talk about suicide and is thinking of a plan, take all the necessary steps to make your home safe: Remove all medication, guns, rope, knives, scissors, razor blades, and other sharp objects from your home. Think prevention.

Links to community resources and helplines at farwestfamilyservices
A Word about Pills
These days, there’s a lot of social network chatter among our youth about “taking pills.” The pills of choice— the easiest to get hold of—are acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen. Although taking a few of these pills may not be serious, an extremely large dose of either medication is extremely dangerous, and can cause death if not caught in time.
Tylenol®/Acetaminophen overdose
Acetaminophen is a safe and effective pain reliever when taken according to label instructions. But an overdose of this medication is a leading cause of liver damage and even death. People who overdose don’t experience early symptoms that indicate trouble, and sometimes don't seek help in time. What young people need to know is that Tylenol® may not kill them, but they could very well end up with a lifelong health issue from liver damage or failure.
Ibuprofen overdose
An overdose of ibuprofen can cause severe problems in the gastrointestinal tract. These include:
  •    inflammation
  •    bleeding
  •    ulcers
  •    stomach or intestinal perforation, which can be fatal
  •    liver or kidney failure
Repeated high doses of ibuprofen over long periods of time can also increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.
Call Poison Control
Call Poison Control right away at 1-800-222-1222 if you suspect an overdose of pills. Don't wait to see if symptoms develop—by then, it may be too late for effective treatment. Or go to your nearest emergency room. Take the empty pill bottle with you.

Contact Far West

Call 206-682-8149 or 1-800-398-3440
  • to make an appointment for counseling services or
  • to reach the StressLine

  • information about your EAP program
  • mental health resources and tools
  • community resources