Learning in Your Living Room
McLean’s webinar series provides essential information in a challenging time
July 14, 2021
For months, staff from McLean’s Education Outreach team had been planning to start a regular webinar series. When the pandemic was recognized in the United States in March 2020, the team quickly mobilized to provide mental health information to the public six weeks earlier than originally scheduled.
The first webinar, presented in early April by Blaise Aguirre, MD, medical director of McLean’s 3East Continuum, focused on helping the helpers, addressing how health care workers can manage their mental health during the pandemic.
Scott J. O’Brien, director of Education Outreach and producer of the webinar series, said launching the series with Aguirre’s webinar provided great insight into the needs and interests of the audience.
“Blaise’s webinar continues to be one of our most popular webinars to date,” he noted. “We were ahead of the curve in that in April, no one was acknowledging the secondary crisis: the well-being of our health care workers. We were able to provide good information that was relevant and useful, and from there, our audience grew because people knew we were a reliable resource that was addressing in-the-moment topics.”
Soon, the team was producing webinars on additional topics, including taking steps to manage anxiety, establishing and sticking to routines, and coping with family stress during the crisis.
Also, condition-specific webinars offered guidance on how the pandemic might impact individuals with mental health challenges such as obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, or autism spectrum disorders. Other webinars were geared toward practitioners, such as “Helping Your Patients Face Their Fears With Exposure Therapy” or “Helping Clinicians Navigate OCD and Support Their Patients.”
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A Growing Audience
The webinars are aired live but are recorded and remain available online. About 40% of the audience attends the live sessions, with the remaining views coming after the sessions have aired.
Each session features a short explanation on a topic followed by audience questions, a format that has proven to be quite popular. O’Brien said that by the fourth episode, the production team realized they needed to shorten the expert presentation to allow more room for audience questions, which average 100 per broadcast.
While many audience members are from the general public, half of all attendees are mental health professionals. Executives from corporations and nonprofits have reached out to the Education Outreach team to express their appreciation for the presenters and topics. Several state school districts have recommended the series to teachers as a resource for the academic year.
Also interesting is the increasing number of viewers who tune in from other parts of the world.
The aim of McLean’s Education Outreach team, established in 2016 thanks to philanthropic support, was for the hospital to have such a global reach.
“We don’t want to focus on the northeast or just the U.S.,” O’Brien said. “We want to be able to reach people who want to learn in Pakistan or Ecuador as well. Wherever people want to learn, we want to be able to help them.” To date, the webinar series has been viewed in more than 100 countries.
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