RAHWAY, NJ – During these challenging times, mental and emotional health is as important as physical health and Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) University Hospital Rahway is dedicated to ensuring those needs are met. 

Since the pandemic began, the hospital has switched gears, moving many of its ongoing support groups to a virtual platform while continuing to run select in-person meetings in a safe and social distancing manner.

“Given the stress and fear from COVID–19, along with the isolation, many are experiencing anxiety and depressive symptoms,” said Mindy Cohen, MSN, APRN, C, support group facilitator at RWJ Rahway. “Support groups are an excellent forum to address mental health challenges. The shared experiences, social connection and education regarding healthy coping strategies empower members and give them tools to address stress in adaptive ways.” 

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RWJ Rahway's support groups are aimed at providing individuals and family with information, education and assistance in learning to cope with the emotional and practical aspects of an illness or other health-related condition. Prior to COVID-19, many of the hospital's support groups, along with health lectures, screenings and healthy cooking demonstrations took place at the RWJ Rahway Fitness & Wellness Center in Scotch Plains.

"We had good turnout for our groups before the pandemic. Since the surge, a core group of people have met remotely, but we know there are more out there who need the help and support," said Donna Mancuso, director of community Education at RWJ Rahway. 

Currently, RWJ Rahway holds online Breast Cancer, Caregiver Support, Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s and Weight Loss Surgery support groups. Groups meet monthly via Zoom and other platforms. Additionally, an online Recovery support group is offered virtually (www.rwjbh.org/allrecovery) for individuals with substance use disorder.

“Our members like the convenience of meeting from the comfort of their homes,” said Dianne Errichetti, RN, who runs the surgical weight-loss support group for the hospital. 

Understanding that face-to-face support is also important, RWJ Rahway is holding in person adult and spousal bereavement support groups, led by nurse Jane Dowling, RN, and Diabetes support, led by Lauren Bernstein, MS, RD, a diabetes educator.

“Some of our clients don’t have computers or have told us they want to come in person," said Bernstein said, telling TAPinto that all 

meetings are held in accordance with CDC guidelines – all attendees are required to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines. "We sanitize all surfaces before and after visits," she added. "Temperatures are taken at the door and visitors are asked about travel and any symptoms."

All of RWJ Rahway's support groups are free and open to the community. A list of available groups and meeting days/times is as follows:  

Adult Bereavement Support
In-person on the first Wednesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. at the RWJ Rahway Fitness & Wellness Center, 2120 Lamberts Mill Road, Scotch Plains; Spousal Bereavement – Begins Wednesday, Nov.18 and runs every Wednesday through Jan. 6 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. 

Breast Cancer Support Group
Virtual on the first Tuesday of the month from 7-8:30 p.m. and the first Wednesday of each month from 5:30 to 7 pm.

Caregiver Support Group
Virtual on the first Wednesday of the month from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Diabetes Support Group
In person on the first Thursday of the month from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital – Conference Room 3, 865 Stone Street, Rahway

Fibromyalgia Support Group
Virtual on the first Thursday of the month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. or 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Weight Loss Surgery Support Group
Virtual on the fourth Thursday of the month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.  

Parkinson’s Disease Support Group
Virtual on the second Wednesday of every month at 1 pm.

Anyone seeking more information on any of the aforementioned support groups, including an email invitation to join, is encouraged to contact the Community Education Department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway at (732) 499-6193. RWJ Rahway is located at 865 Stone Street, Rahway. RWJ Rahway Fitness & Wellness Center is located at 2120 Lamberts Mill Road, Scotch Plains. Additional information is also available online at rwjbh.org/rahway