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Mental health experts share tips for those facing challenges during pandemic

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Posted at 7:36 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 23:03:50-04

After San Luis Obispo County District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill announced he is seeking specialized care for depression, local mental health experts are sharing the resources available to others who may also need help in the midst of the pandemic.

"Influential figures, people that have high-level positions in political office or celebrities... For them to say, 'it's okay, this is something I am going through too,' can be really powerful for folks to see that," said Julia Tidik, Transitions-Mental Health Association (TMHA) Nurse Practitioner.

"I think that with COVID-19 and the many different things that are happening in our world right now, we are all collectively feeling a lot of fear," said THMA Psychiatric Technician Shakora Holt.

San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health Director Anne Robin says the pandemic has challenged many people, but initially, she says there was actually a decrease in people seeking mental health services through the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.

"People were just staying at home, and that was fine for a while," Robin said. "After time, being sheltering at home and doing a lot of physical distancing, people have started to report additional feelings of depression or anxiety or insecurities."

Robin added the stressors that come with the pandemic create issues that are multi-layered.

Some of the contributors to stress include the fear of getting the virus and also the frustration of not being able to get out of the house.

"People sometimes mask depression or sadness with anger. So somebody who's being very angry may truly be feeling depression, but that's how they're showing it is through anger," Robin said.

Eleuterio Sanchez Stanley of Oceano says he has been taking classes for almost five months now on mental health diversion, which is a new program in San Luis Obispo County to help those with mental illnesses escape being confined in jail or in prison.

The Balance Treatment Center in San Luis Obispo says that when patterns of stress outweigh coping, it's time to start to seek true help.

"Mental health is all about tolerating uncertainty and adapting," Program Director Coraline Robinson said.

Balance teaches an approach of distress tolerance, which means four things:

  • Identifying thoughts and feelings
  • Verbalizing or writing those feelings down
  • Talking about those feelings with someone safely
  • Finding calm, soothing actions to repeat

THMA services in Northern Santa Barbara County have also had to adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances under the coronavirus.

"What we hear most often are people feeling loss of control and freedom, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with the state of our economy and the long term financial impact and what that means for them," Program Director Christina Harney said.

The resources for those in Santa Barbara County are:

Family Support Specialists, Youth and Adult Services - This is a free service for family members who have a loved one with known or suspected mental illness. They offer one-to-one support and weekly family support groups in English and Spanish
Maria Perez: 805–441–3325
Zandra Alfaro-Olea: 805–458–5487

Recovery Learning Community - This is also a free service that provides a variety of weekly support groups, food bank, and computer classes through peer support.
Santa Maria RLC: 805-928-0139
Lompoc RLC: Helping Hands of Lompoc: 805–819–0460

Growing Grounds Farm - Provides vocational opportunities for community members with mental illness that receive county mental health services: 805–934–2182

Santa Maria Supportive Community Services and Lompoc ACT - These programs are multidisciplinary teams that provide intensive outpatient mental health treatment. The services include case management, therapy, medication management, vocational/educational support, etc. These are referral-based programs.

Santa Maria Supportive Community Services
Jenna Reyes: 805–614–4940

Lompoc ACT
Zillah Hodgkins: 805–865–1940

SLO HOTLINE 1-800-783-0607 - This is a free 24/7 crisis response and suicide prevention line. SLO Hotline is always available to residents of Santa Barbara County. SLO Hotline is a confidential telephone service for anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. It is also available to answer non-emergency calls from anyone in need of emotional or mental health information or referrals.