DANBURY, CT — If you were anxious, depressed, or had anger management issues before the new coronavirus swept through southwest Connecticut, you’re pretty much fit to be tied, at this point. Back in the Old Days, like February, you could still see a mental health counselor fairly easily. Now what?
If you’re one of psychological counselor Lori Capri’s clients, you go online.
Capri, a licensed professional counselor in Danbury, has moved her patient base onto an internet video conferencing platform, and she has barely missed a beat. Her online couch may not be as plush as the one back in her office on National Place, but it is fully compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that ensures patient confidentiality. Of course, it’s also social distancing-compliant, and that ensures nobody is spreading the virus.
Although she hasn’t seen a drop off in business as have many other medical practices, she hasn’t seen the spike she expected, either. But it won’t be long, she reckons.
“People who already have depression or anxiety issues may notice increased problems,” Capri said. The older “people are used to going to work every day and not staying home with their kids 24/7, so they’re very stressed and not inclined to be so patient with their children. The younger people, college, high school, that age, they’re not able to go out with their friends, not able to spend time doing the fun things that they’ve been doing.”
And if you’re banging your head against the wall after just a couple of weeks of self-isolation, get it together, Bud. Mayor Mark Boughton told a Facebook Live audience on Monday, “I don’t think we’ll be going back to school anytime soon.”
Capri has been practicing over 20 years, and has worked previously in Monroe, where she was the town’s social services director, and in Stamford. Her clients run the age spectrum. She says the kids were “thrilled to be home in the beginning,” but that novelty ran very thin, very quickly, collapsing into boredom and rambunctiousness. Capri’s advice for parents trying to cope with that special brand of chaos is to develop a daily routine and stick to it.
The only model that most parents know of how to entertain their kids being home for a long stretch is “summertime,” which often consists of vacations, day trips, camps, municipal programs or telling them to run out and play in the neighborhood. Many parents faced with having to keep their children entertained all day long for the first time since they could walk on their own, are experiencing new anxieties.
Her advice to these parents is to find a field someplace and “kick a ball around, or toss a Frisbee,” but she acknowledges such available open green spaces are closing as municipalities crack down on people failing to practice proper social distancing.
Capri recommended Create Escape DIY art studio in Danbury as a novel resource for parents looking for artistic outlet that’s not outside. “They’ll package up kits and deliver them to people.” There are also music teachers who are now giving lessons online, she said.
High school seniors are concerned they may miss out on that traditional, once-in-a-lifetime graduation, and fear losing touch with their friends, Capri told Patch. Hyper goal-oriented college seniors worry that their career timeline will be thrown off.
So what do you tell someone whose dreams just got shut down, by a micro-organism, no less?
“Learn how to breath,” Capri said, “and be patient.” She recommends against watching the news “too much,” even if that means setting an alarm. “Like I told someone today, ‘watch it until they begin repeating themselves.’ and then turn it off.”
The counselor suggests putting the TV and computer aside for a while and practice a hobby or play a game that doesn’t have to be plugged in, with your family.
“You are going to get to know your family members in a very different way, that is definitely going to happen,” Capri said, like it was a good thing.
She says there is no real psychiatric data upon which to draw, to gauge exactly how long we can be reasonably expected to put a happy face on self-isolation. Medically, the closest parallel has been the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, but we were an entirely different type of society then. In the early 20th Century, people “were used to being home,” Capri said. “They didn’t have distractions like TV, and they didn’t have the news all the time in their face.”
Capri recommends we get outside, in the sunlight, and just make a point of keeping six feet away from the other guy who is soaking up rays. She is a fan of what she calls “social distance walking.”
As the pandemic drags on, and we all — therapists, teachers, artists, the young, the old — move online and learn to work and play and learn virtually, isn’t there a chance a not-so-small segment of society will embrace their safe virtual life and not want to come back?
There is, Capri says, and the prospect terrifies her.
“People need contact with each other. We all give off energy, we are part of the same universe, the same space, we need to be in contact, we cannot sit in the house and just do everything online. It will be unhealthy for us all.”
This article originally appeared on the Danbury Patch