COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Coping with depression, loneliness, stress or other mental health issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic takes grit, and that's what a new program at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs is targeting.
UCCS, along with several local mental health service providers, has started GRIT (Greater Resilience Information Toolkit). It's a program that provides free online training for people who want to manage their stress level and help others do the same.
"One of the main factors is that people who have the virus, are recovering from it or worry about contracting it, don't have family or friends checking on them to see how they're doing," said Charles Benight, a UCCS psychology professor who help create GRIT.
"Another factor is that many of those loved ones don't know exactly what to say," he said. "They don't have the skills to get below the surface and find out how a person is really doing."
GRIT teaches people how to provide emotional support, use resilience to build encouragement and motivation, offer reassurance and then direct people to mental health services if needed.
Benight said GRIT is being conducted by regular citizens, which can make the program more comfortable and less intimidating to people who need help dealing with stress.
"The mental health aspect doesn't even enter the picture unless at the end of the program, people need more help. We can steer them to the proper resources."
Benight said UCCS devised the program just before the pandemic developed in the U.S.
"Because we saw what it was doing in other countries and had a sense of what it would do here," he said. "We knew that people would need it."
Around 1,200 people have registered for GRIT training, with half of the participants living in El Paso County. The program is so successful that it now operates in 37 states.
Benight appeared at Monday's work session of the City Council to update members about the program.
A survey of more than 2,200 Coloradans in August found that 53% reported anxiety or other mental health strain due to the pandemic; 63% of families earning less than $30,000 annually felt more stress; and 55% described mental health as a serious or very serious issue in the state.
Devin McGeehan, of Colorado Springs, said the program would have been helpful to him early in the pandemic.
"I have a small business that was considered nonessential," he said. "I spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying about what to do and figuring our the financial situation. And on top of that, I had stress at home because my wife is in the medical field and she's working long hours. It was my first lesson in having to ask for support."
To register or for more information, visit: http://letstalkgrit.com.