a monthly newsletter from Integral Care [printfriendly]

December: Supporting Your Mental Health This Winter

A Message From Our CEO

2020 has been a year like no other. Many of us have experienced depression, anxiety and grief as a result of the pandemic. This winter brings additional challenges – we’re entering an unprecedented holiday season away from loved ones and some of us experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) this time of year. But, there is good news. Evidence-based strategies and tools exist to bolster our mental health this season.


We know human connection is crucial for mental resilience. A recent study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry concludes that connection is the single most powerful protective factor against depression. Genomics research reveals that connection also enhances physical health, protecting the coding of genes’ immune functioning.

Photo credit: Dr. Emma Seppala/Stanford Medicine

We can still stay connected, despite the pandemic.

  • Gather virtually and share what you’re grateful for this year. When we give (and receive) gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin – two neurotransmitters that can positively impact our mood. Learn more about the positive impact of expressing gratitude.
  • Surprise a friend or family member with a text, phone call or postcard. This gesture will boost the other person’s mood. Helping others can also enhance your well-being. Learn more ways to improve your happiness.
  • Go camping with family or friends. Camping is a way to social distance yet safely connect with others. Plus, research shows a link between exposure to nature and stress reduction. Learn more ways to stay connected.

It is not uncommon for people to experience stress and depression during the holiday season. This year, more people may experience an impact on their mental health. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Winter Solstice or just enjoy the holiday season, our recent Statesman OpEd with Austin Public Health includes suggestions for lower risk activities to approach the season and support our whole health — physical and mental. Given that there is no precedent for this year’s festivities, you may just ignite new traditions with your loved ones.


Integral Care’s Winter Well-being Toolkit offers additional ideas to stay connected, celebrate the season, and support your mental health – including tips for fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder, such as getting more Vitamin D in your diet.


Our mental health depends on maintaining connection. Our physical health depends on staying home as much as possible and protecting bodies. It’s possible to do both! Be well and stay safe.


David Evans
Chief Executive Officer


Donor Support Bolsters Our Work

Generous individuals from across our community help Integral Care deliver innovative, person-centered care that is responsive to rapidly evolving needs across our community.


The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for people across Travis County, many of whom already live with significant barriers to wellness. Lack of transportation, limited access to technology, lack of income and inability to secure basic needs are just some of the new or compounded challenges facing the people we support.


Integral Care Foundation recently held its first virtual Bridging the Gap (BTG) campaign, raising over $57,000 to help ensure that people seeking Integral Care’s services can reach their full potential and thrive. By investing in Integral Care’s work, a donor becomes one of the building blocks creating a foundation of health for people across our community. We are grateful to all of our BTG donors and extend a very special thank you to our 2020 Sponsors:


  • Husch Blackwell
  • Popp Hutcheson
  • Paq-Square
  • Southwest Strategies Group
  • NAMI Central Texas
  • Superior HealthPlan
  • Tejas Behavioral Health Mgt. Assoc.
  • Frost Banking Investment Insurance
  • Frost Insurance

It is more important than ever to unite in support of healthy living for everyone. Please consider supporting Integral Care’s work with a tax-deductible, year-end contribution to the Integral Care Foundation. Your donation will help people in our community reach their full potential.

Supported Employment Team Outpaces 2019 Job Placements 

While the pandemic has closed many businesses and led to widespread unemployment across our community, Integral Care’s Supported Employment team helped 97 individuals secure employment since March. With 119 job placements through October 2020, Supported Employment is on track to surpass its 2019 total.


Funded by the Healthy Community Collaborative and Texas Health and Human Services, the Supported Employment team is comprised of 6 staff members who provide help with resumes, applications and interviewing, and building relationships with employers. Supported Employment works with a wide array of employers, including Goodwill, Census 2020, Spectrum, Randall’s, Austin 311, UPS, Walmart, IRS, TWC and Lifetime Fitness.


The team uses the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) approach to employment services, which helps anyone with mental health issues get and keep a competitive job. The team believes employment that meets a person’s interests and goals can improve self-esteem, mental health and well-being.


Integral Care is proud to be meeting clients where they are, zero exclusion. That means no one is excluded on the basis of readiness, diagnoses, symptoms, substance use history, psychiatric hospitalizations, homelessness, level of disability or legal system involvement. If someone wants to work, our team is there to support them on the journey.

What’s New at Integral Care

  • It’s not too late to join Integral Care and NAMI Central Texas on Thursday, December 3rd at 12pm for a virtual community forum about supporting your mental health this winter season. When we combine the impact of the pandemic with the winter blues and a very different holiday season, this winter will likely be difficult for many. But, there is good news. Panelists Dr. Calvin Kelly, Valerie Milburn, and Wendy Salazar will share tools and evidence-based strategies to boost our mental health and well-being during these unprecedented times. Register here now.
  • Integral Care is now a member of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities. We are preparing for a racial equity assessment of the organization. This will include hiring a consultant to conduct interviews with staff, community members and collaborators.
  • Learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder and the pandemic’s compounding effect in this RANews article, featuring Integral Care Practice Manager Wendy Salazar and Mental Health First Aid Program Manager Aaron Evans.


November 2020: How do we rebuild health and well-being during a pandemic?

October 2020: With Collaboration Comes Innovation

August 2020: A Back to School Season Like Never Before

July 2020: Minority Health Disparities & COVID-19

June 2020: Stronger Together

May 2020: Surviving and Thriving During Uncertain Times

April 2020: Persevering During COVID-19

March 2020: Collaborations and Initiatives to Improve Health for the IDD Population

February 2020:Solutions to Health and Health Care Disparities

January 2020: Sucicide Prevention a Local Effort

December 2019: A Year of Thriving Care & Collaboration

November 2019: Teamwork and Collaboration Impact Homelessness in Travis County

October 2019:Making Strides for World Mental Health

September 2019: Taking Steps to Recovery Support

August 2019: Working Together for Child & Youth Mental Health

July 2019: Legislative Wrap-Up – Some Bipartisan Wins for Healthcare

June 2019: Strengthening Access for Veterans and the Entire Military Family

May 2019: Women and Mental Health

April 2019: Legislative Session Status Report

March 2019: Making Opportunities for Recovery More Accessible

February 2019: Recovery is Possible

January 2019: Stronger Outcomes Through Collaboration

December 2018: Looking ahead to the 86th Texas Legislature

November 2018: How Tech is Changing the Face of Mental Health

October 2018: A Few Questions Could Help Save a Life

September 2018: Anyone Can Save a Life

August 2018: A Milestone Moment

July 2018: Equity in Mental Health Care for All

June 2018: Expanding Services for Veterans

May 2018: Your Mental Health Toolkit

April 2018: Time of Terror Calls for Increased Emotional Support

March 2018: Stopping the cycle of incarceration for individuals with mental illness

February 2018: Equity in mental healthcare for everyone

January 2018 : Improving Mental Health Through Partnership & Collaboration

December 2017: Strength Through Community

November 2017 : Healthy Lifestyles Improve Well-Being

October 2017 : National Child Health Day

September 2017 : Strengthening Families and Communities