The entire way we have thought about childcare was completely upended by the pandemic. For the past year, COVID-19 has forced a re-imagining of how we structure learning, play, and socialization. And it’s put a spotlight on the impact of the pandemic on kids’ mental health. 

As part of a Solutions Journalism Network project, journalists have spent the last year looking for the bright spots, solutions that could help with our current problems, and those that the pandemic has brought to the surface.

In this special hour-long virtual program, moderated by The CT Mirror’s John Dankosky, the panel explored solutions to the mental health issues we’ve uncovered over this last year.

Presented by The CT Mirror, Gannett and The Solutions Journalism Network


Laura Damon is a reporter at the Newport Daily News, with a master’s degree from University of Rhode Island in history and archeology. She tackles a wide range of topics, from crime to education, but mental health stories are a passion. She prides herself on her empathy, taking care to report tragic events with sensitivity and compassion.

Randi Silverman is the executive director of the Youth Mental Health Project, a Connecticut-based charity that has branches in five states. The project’s goal is “to change the conversation and raise awareness that kids can struggle with mental health” through its Parent Support Network. The mother to three boys, one of whom has a mental health disorder, she understands the impact mental illness can have on a family. Silverman is a frequent speaker on youth mental health and was an associate producer on the short film “Illness” in 2013 and screenwriter and producer of the feature film, NO LETTING GO, in 2015.

Michelle Doucette Cunningham is executive director of Connecticut After School Network, an organization that is devoted to developing the “whole child.” Michelle is widely respected as an expert on state level systems for after school and summer programming. In addition to her more than twenty years of non-profit experience, she holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Eagleton Institute for Public Policy at Rutgers University and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Smith College. The Network is also home to the Social Emotional Learning Alliance For Connecticut.

John is CT Mirror's Director of Events. A well-known and highly-regarded radio personality and moderator, he divides his time between CT Mirror — where he heads up our events program and serves as a multi-platform consultant — and the NPR / PRI program Science Friday. Previously, John was executive editor of the New England News Collaborative and the host of NEXT, a weekly program about New England. He also appeared weekly on The Wheelhouse, WNPR’s news roundtable program. His 25 years in public media also include serving as vice president of news for Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, host of WNPR’s Where We Live, and regular fill-in host for the PRI program Science Friday in New York. He was twice recognized by PRNDI as America’s best public radio call-in show.