COLORADO SPRINGS — While we all navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, for some people, the challenges may have taken a toll on their mental health and well-being. However, a local program called GRIT is helping our community rebound from the pandemic's impacts.
GRIT stands for Greater Resilience Informational Toolkit, which is an array of online resources that can help people overcome challenges they're going through during the pandemic. One of the resources is an online training that teaches members of the community how to help others get through tough times.
Anyone can take the free online training, including healthcare workers, educators, business owners, students or military. The training takes about five hours to complete, and when someone passes they are certified as a GRIT coach.
Experts and researchers at University of Colorado - Colorado Springs launched the program at the beginning of the pandemic. Their initial goal was to provide information and resources for someone who may be having a hard time.
"We wanted to figure out a way to give our community really simple and helpful steps to reach out and make connections within our community, so we can build resilience on what is ongoing stress," said Nicole Weis.
Weis works as a peer support program manager and clinical therapist at the National Institute for Human Resilience on UCCS' campus. She says nearly 1,200 people have signed up for the GRIT training, 800 of them are from Colorado, and 500 live in El Paso County.
"One of our coaches had a friend who was really struggling with self harm and didn't know of resources around her," said Weis. However, because of the online training, the coach was able to point that individual in the right direction to seek help.
"Just having that ability to know what to say or at least how to structure a conversation can build not only your own resilience, but build it in your community," said Weis.
One of the GRIT coaches is Jaime Garcia, a teacher and small business owner.
"If these bad things are happening let's talk about it a little bit and see what solutions there are, that's what resiliency is all about," said Garcia.
Garcia mentioned the training taught her skills to work with others in the community, and what to look out for in a person who may be struggling.
"The training taught me to listen to clues and hear what people may be lacking or need. So if they're talking about sleep deprivation or anxiety or not eating well," said Garcia. "I just remember that
I don't have to solve a problem for anybody, but what I can do is point people to the right resources."
The training also taught her how to recognize stress in the classroom, as she teaches high school and college students at Pike's Peak Community College. More importantly though, the training has taught her how to be a pillar of resilience for those around her.
"It's about being real and opening yourself up to talk to each other about how you're feeling, because it's not all positive and it's not all perfect, but can we talk real about what's going on and get to the nitty gritty of it and then figure out what to do about it," said Garcia.
The skills and information learned during GRIT can also be used to have meaningful conversations even when the pandemic is over.
Weis says the GRIT training is always evolving. They've added informative videos, and special-based programs for health care workers, educators or business owners. For example, as a business owner, GRIT coaches can also provide insight on how to transition employees back to work, how to support employees, or how to prioritize your own self care.
UCCS also works closely with Aspen Pointe, the National Alliance of Mental Illness and El Paso County Public Health.
For more information about GRIT, click here.