FGCU offers mental health counseling during coronavirus pandemic

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

New research predicts another growing pandemic in the United States. It’s a wave of mental health needs due to the coronavirus pandemic. And a local counseling center is stepping up to meet that need.

A newly published report in the Journal of the American Medical Association says coronavirus isn’t the only health concern that’s spreading across the country.

FGCU’s health community recognizes the local need for mental health counseling as well. Thursday, we spoke to Dr. Alise Bartley, the clinical assistant professor and director of Community Counseling Center at FGCU, about the current issues and what they are offering.

“We’re doing a lot of self-medicating behaviors because we are so overwhelmed,” said Alise Bartley, the clinical assistant professor and director of Community Counseling Center at FGCU. “And our anxiety is off the charts right now. And this is unprecedented in our lifetimes what we’re going through right now.”

Historically, Bartley told us measures such as social distancing or large-scale traumas intensify feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

But this crisis is unique in how large it is, and it’s affecting our ability to cope as a community.

“Let’s go ahead and look at other disasters,” Bartley said. “Let’s look at Hurricane Katrina or 9/11. Those things happened to other people. They didn’t happen to us. So we were able to show compassion. We were able to reach out. But unfortunately, we’re all experiencing the [COVID-19] epidemic right now. And so we have actually turned more inward.”

Bartley’s team is stepping up to meet the need here in Southwest Florida. Starting May 11, the FGCU’s Community Counseling Center is offering remote therapy, so community members can get professional help when, where and how they need it.

Dr. Bartley’s team can only accept 15 to 20 new clients, but there are other health systems looking to provide additional support.

“All of it can be done in the comfort of your own home,” Bartley said. “We will teach you how to do the tele-counseling to be certain that this is time for you where you can be self-nurturing and giving yourself what you need, so that you can start feeling better.”


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