More people turning to the Up Center for mental health during coronavirus


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — If you’re feeling stressed out, you are not alone. More than two months of lockdowns, job losses, and overall isolation are taking their toll on our mental well-being. 

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation says nearly half of us say our emotional well-being has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrea Long, who is the chief program and strategy officer for the Up Center — a nonprofit that provides vast array of social services — says her counselors are fielding more calls in these uncertain times.

“What I am I going to do about my bills, about my employment, engaging in parenting effectively with my children with time when things are so incredibly unstructured?” she said, giving examples of concerns she’s heard.

The Up Center’s website says it helps around 10,000 people in Hampton Roads every year. The organization is now offering more aid to those who need counseling in this age of social distancing.

“One of the things the Up Center has done in response was to take all of our counseling services to a virtual platform, which has allowed us to provide easier access to anyone who thinks they can benefit from talking to a counselor,” she said. 

Long says online support groups are gaining traction, giving people a sense that others share their anxiety as more people find themselves under stress at home.

“Oftentimes, people can receive benefit with one or two touchpoints; one or two sessions to allow you to talk things through, get a new perspective, identify some tools that will help you to manage, and then to move on about the task of caring for your family and yourself. And that helps people feel a little more grounded. I’m not alone. My circumstances are not that unique, and here are some helpful ways to manage my situation more effectively immediately,” she said.

Long says seeking assistance to deal with isolation is a critical first step to keep people from falling into the trap of substance abuse and domestic violence. Warning signs are trouble sleeping, changes with how you interact with your children and your spouse, or just feeling overwhelmed. 

“The most important piece of advice is that we want families to seek help. We want families to reach out to the Up Center and other agencies in the community so that we can help families problem solve. We’re all experiencing the same conditions, but everyone will have [a] different reaction. So whatever your reaction is, it’s valid. And you should reach out and get some support. There is no stigma attached to reaching out and needing help,” she said. 

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