VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The need for mental health services continues to grow as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.
“What we’re seeing now are people coming in who have been socially isolated for so long who are dealing with depression, anxiety, complex trauma,” said Sara Pitzen, lead clinician at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at the UP Center.
The clinic opened in 2019 and saw 500 clients in its first year. It is located in Virginia Beach and provides mental health services to post-9/11 veterans and their families, regardless of the veteran’s role while in uniform, discharge status, or combat experience, according to the center’s website.
Now, Pitzen said, the number of people seeking help is skyrocketing.
“We’re seeing a lot more children … coming into our doors in need,” she said.
This year, the number of children coming into the clinic is expected to triple, and the total number of clients is expected to double.
It’s a critical need that caught the attention of power company Dominion Energy.
“When you think about deployments and separations and all the other things military families have to deal with, you add a pandemic on top of that, and that can just turn a situation into a crisis very quickly,” said Dominion Energy Regional Director Bonita Billingsley-Harris.
Billingsley-Harris told WAVY that one in five Dominion hires is a military veteran or spouse.
On Tuesday morning, the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation presented a $50,000 check to the UP Center that will help hire another clinician.
It’s a gift, Pitzen said, that will allow them to help even more post-9/11 veterans and their families — whether in-person or via telehealth — managing cases or medications.
“We are seeing people truly get better, and with that, it’s a very rewarding experience,” Pitzen said.