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You have the power

We're your therapists. We're tired and almost broken. Time to do your part.

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Pandemic stress is hitting us all. Maybe a mental health counselor can help? Well, they're all full. I've had 19 requests this week for new clients. No problem—my first opening is in January 2022.

The last year and a half has been the busiest of my 25-year career in the mental health field as a clinical psychologist. I have never seen this level of stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma in our community. COVID-19 was the final straw, but my clients began the pandemic already battered by the weakened economy, discrimination, and torn community ties due to years of divisive politics, misinformation, and distrust.

Not surprisingly, your therapist is tired. We're a small group of therapists in this county, but it's a nationwide problem. There just aren't enough counselors to help you. And we have lives too—kids struggling with going back to school, ill family members, spouses who lose their jobs. Some therapists have shortened their hours so they can tend to their families during this unprecedented time. Other therapists have closed their practices.

Along with the teachers, first responders, health care providers, and essential workers, we have made the pandemic more bearable—more livable—for you. Some have lost their lives doing it. Hospitals around the country are overflowing—again. Several teachers have told me they will quit if we go back to distance learning. Another shutdown will bankrupt local businesses. Our systems will fail if you do not step up.

The science is clear that the best likely way out of this pandemic is vaccination. Masks reduce transmission and do not harm our mental health. Death, illness, school shutdown, and economic uncertainty from COVID-19 is the problem, not masks. Please get your facts from recognized experts—the CDC, the county Department of Public Health, trusted organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, and your physician. Not social media or infotainment TV "news." Misinformation can cost you your life, or your child's.

You have the power to change the course of this pandemic and get our society back on track to compassion, economic stability, and community cohesion. As the Delta variant surges across the nation, think about your job, your neighbor's immune compromised child, or your elderly parent's six-hour wait in an ER packed with COVID-19 patients. Find your "reason why" and do your part. Get vaccinated if you are able to do so, to protect those who can't. Wear a mask.

Nothing would make me happier than to have my phone stop ringing off the hook with desperate callers asking for counseling appointments that I don't have. Δ

Laurie Ferguson is a licensed clinical psychologist, member of the Central Coast Psychological Association, and the director of Spark Psychological Services in Atascadero. Reach her through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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