For this story, you’re going to need to do a short meditation.

Take a moment, if you would, to think about what life has been like since around March 12, 2020. Go ahead. Meditate on it for a moment. Stop reading — and them come back to finish this story. Take as long as you’d like. Feel how you’ve felt. Smell the smells that come to mind. Hear the words you’ve heard spoken from loved ones, friends, on TV.

See the sights of empty streets, long lines waiting to get into the supermarket, bare shelves that don’t have fruits, meats, paper towels, toilet paper. Go ahead — take your time. When you’re ready, move on to the next paragraph.

Now it’s time to be honest.

Those feelings had to include stress.

Perhaps anxiety.

Maybe fear.

Certainly uncertainty.

For many, these feeling — perhaps it’s the first time you’ve felt them in a very long time. For the younger generations, maybe it’s the first time you’ve ever felt any of those feelings.

Now, think again. Imagine these feeling are being experienced by those with underlying anxieties. Can you even imagine, just for a second, how terrible life might be for those already suffering mentally as it is?

Fortunately, whether it’s the first time — or the 50th time you’ve felt this way — there is help. And it is vitally important to know this — if it’s new anxiety, or if it’s exacerbated angst — there is absolutely no reason for you, for anyone, to feel alone.

Because no matter what you might believe, you’re truly in a huge boat right now, one filled with women and men, white collar and blue collar workers, the elderly and the young, the unemployed and employed, the Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists.

You’re seeing the picture now.

Enter Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare, with numerous locations about Bergen County, including a satellite office in Lyndhurst. Last week, we spoke with the company’s Director of Development Nikki Chiarello. She spent 21 years with CBH as the director of the facility’s Adolescent Psychiatry Residence.

She says help is not only available — it has never been easier to access. And there is absolutely no reason for anyone reading this who may need help to get that help. There are no stigmas. No one is judging.  The only thing is — if you need the help, you must speak up. Without fear.

At CBH, Chiarello says the inpatient program is being conducted via telehealth.

“The consumers are having therapy, group, virtually,” she said. “We’re also using the phone.”

They’re using a special online portal that is safe, private and secure for all involved. So think of it as Zoom or Facetime, but on steroids, on a professional website that cannot be hacked.

Chiarello says there has been an increase of “consumers” since the stay-in-place order was made by Gov. Philip D. Murphy, and she’s been working, already, on outreach to those who might need help. She says that from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays, anyone dealing with mental issues believed to have been caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, should call CBH at (201) 646-0195. If no one is available to take the call in person, the caller should leave contact information, because the hope is to make a return call as quickly as possible.

“The process, now, is probably simpler than it was before,” she said. “There was a process before where our consumers had to travel here, then find a spot in the parking lot, leaving time to think about the decision to walk in. Now, that’s not the case. A phone call does it all — and we hope to get help to people shortly thereafter.”

So who are the new consumers?

“So much of what we’re doing involves people who have never had anxiety before,” Chiarello said. “So many people are feeling very isolated. So many have these feeling of, ‘Oh my God, what is going to happen tomorrow if today was this bad?’ Each day brings more to their minds, now more than ever before. And if they’re experiencing silence, with a feeling they’ve got no outlet, it can be horrible.

“No one should feel isolated. No one should feel alone.”

Who needs the most help?

Chiarello points to the reality that the highest suicide rate in America is among white men. So, in the pandemic, it should be no surprise that white men are reaching out more so than usual. They’re wondering whether they’ll be able to keep their homes, whether they can put food on the table.

Still, the therapy that CBH offers, whether it’s for white men — or anyone else — is 100%, entirely confidential. While times are uncertain, it’s the most crucial period for everyone to talk about how they’re feeling so they can know they’re not alone, Chiarello says.

Chiarello also says children are experiencing anxiety at a greater rate, but fortunately, many school districts have programs made available to all students. Still, CBH does have a fine adolescent program.

What can people do right now?

Chiarello says she and her family have made it a strict policy to watch TV news for one hour only each weekday. They all gather around the TV from 11 p.m. to midnight to watch a recap of the entire day’s news. They do it this way, she says, because soaking everything in, as it happens, has become even more stressful than it was when the virus first broke out.

“That and it’s highly repetitious,” Chiarello said.

Instead of watching TV news all day, Chiarello suggests people take a free, online course in something of personal interest, or doing meditations. Play games even. Talk to family using Zoom, Facetime or Google Duo.

Just back off from the news.

“Some people are watching the news from noon to 5 p.m.,” Chiarello said. “It’s just too much to process, whether it’s stories of people dying, politicians who like to hear themselves speak. There is truly plenty out there for people to do. Take advantage of that time.”

The bottom line, however, is that people need to know something.

“You are not alone, by any means, in this crisis,” Chiarello said. “Call us. We can help.”

Recall: From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays, anyone dealing with mental issues believed to have been caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, should call CBH at (201) 646-0195. If no one is available to take the call in person, the caller should leave contact information, because the hope is to make a return call as quickly as possible.


Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.