As a mother of three, Nicole Van Valen knows how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has been on young people. She’s done her best to help her teenagers adapt, “We set up a ‘dance studio’ for my daughter, my husband and the boys play video games together. We got a Goldendoodle! Never thought I’d do that,” she says with a laugh.
Nicole brings that warm approach to her role as strategic engagement consultant, overseeing initiatives that engage people in their mental well-being. Recently, she’s been managing the new Here 4 U program, which provides emotional support and resources to young adults during COVID-19.
“Here 4 U is part of our Time for Care initiative, which encourages people to prioritize their health and reinforces the importance of accessing primary health care during COVID-19,” says Brooke Wilson, Nicole’s supervisor and head of Resources For Living, which provides mental wellbeing services to over 25 million members.
“Young adults have had to adapt to new ways of learning and working while continuing to deal with social isolation during COVID-19,” says Nicole. “It can feel overwhelming. Through our Here 4 U online support sessions, we’re providing a safe space for young adults to share with their peers how they’re feeling and giving them access to resources that can help them navigate through these challenging times.”
Nicole has already hosted several Here 4 U online peer support sessions, where young adults were free to open up about their struggles.
“One girl was a student athlete with a lot on her plate. She was having severe anxiety, even chest pains,” Nicole remembers. “She told us she’d never spoken to a professional before.” Nicole immediately put her in touch with an on-call licensed behavioral health clinician from Aetna.
“A young man was feeling very isolated,” says Nicole. “He put on a lot of weight working from home. A group member suggested he try online gym sessions. He signed up right after the call.”
“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback on Here 4 U and are currently planning to host additional sessions.,” says Nicole, adding that the program is free and available to anyone 18 to 24 years. “We’re also looking to expand Here 4 U to reach more people, including high schoolers and care providers.”
Thank you, Nicole, for giving young adults a way to help themselves.