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Mental Health Demands Of Pandemic Taking Toll On Counselors

LOGAN, Utah – Therapists are working hard to keep up and see more people during the COVID-19 pandemic, but hearing about it can impact them emotionally as well.

The virus, the economy and isolation all have people seeking more help, even if the underlying problem is not the pandemic.

Intake numbers for Bear River Mental Health over the last two months are up about 150% and it is not a problem unique to the Cache Valley.

“Anytime you add an additional stressor in the community, in the nation, it’s just going to add another layer of stress,” said Dr. Tom Roskos, one of 40 therapists at Bear River Mental Health Services, which covers Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties.

Dr. Tom Roskos with Bear River Mental Health. (KSL-TV)

Their work can impact therapists too.

“Compassion fatigue, burnout, having a lot of consecutive sessions where people are having a really hard time can collectively erode even the best therapists,” Roskos said.

It means the staff has depended even more on each other, though they can’t always do it in person.

Nurse practitioner Curtis Child with Bear River Mental Health. (KSL-TV)

“A lot of people are having problems with depression, anxiety, that seem to be worse since they’ve had isolation from their normal daily life,” said nurse practitioner Curtis Child.

As the pandemic continues, they’re likely to see even more of that.

“When you work in public mental health, we see some pretty difficult cases,” Beth Smith, president and CEO of Bear River Mental Health.

Smith said they want to add more counselors over the coming months but it’s difficult to find those with experience.

“Therapists are not invincible,” said Bear River Mental Health CEO Beth Smith. (Mike Anderson/KSL-TV)

They will have to take care of the staff.

“Therapists are not invincible,” Smith said.

The news is not all bad. Through the struggle, they are seeing people adapt and find ways to overcome.

“It’s very helpful as a mental health professional to hear all this resilience that comes out while people are having a difficult time,” Roskos said.

Thanks to federal CARES funding, they have seen more than their typical Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Smith said they are also getting money for a mobile response team that will be able to help people in crisis, onsite.

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