FAIRMONT — The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for almost every business sector to function using their traditional methods and practices.
And, at the same time, the isolation that grew out of the pandemic resulted in depression and self harm for many Americans.
Some medical and mental health professionals turned to telehealth to try and provide patient access. But, at Appalachian Counseling Center, at 207 Fairmont Ave., in Fairmont, therapist Jude Black came up with a process called the “walk and talk” to counsel patients while they socially distanced and discussed their challenges out in the fresh air.
On Sunday, Black spoke briefly at a community COVID memorial service at Windmill Park where she admitted she is herself a COVID-19 survivor. She said she owes her recovery to the fact that she was vaccinated prior to becoming ill.
“I come to this from a very unique perspective. For me, I’m also a survivor of COVID. I am a firm believer that the only reason I survived is I was immunized first,” Black said.
She told the approximately 85 attendees that she also lost “a very good childhood friend” to COVID, who at the age of 52, had no underlying conditions that would make a person vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Black and Appalachian Counseling Center Clinical Director Kiley Brescoach announced they are launching a free, community COVID-19 Support Group at their local offices. The first support group is scheduled to meet today at 8 a.m. and will be in-person.
“I think COVID has affected each and everyone of us here ... lots of losses and we have the opportunity at Appalachian Life to be able to walk with a lot of people that have suffered and have been hurt,” Brescoach said.
Black said she hopes support group attendees will walk away encouraged to reconnect with the friends and loved ones they’ve lost touch with since the pandemic began.
“There were two things that you said that really stood out and I’m never going to forget them — speak child — speak. That’s all I’m saying is speak. Use your words. Connect,” Black said as she addressed the group Sunday.
“We’ve been so disconnected for so long. It’s time, however, you do it, do it.
Black said whether choosing to reconnect through a phone call or through text messaging, simply make an effort to reconnect.
“Those of you who have lost loved ones — say their names. Do not stop saying their names ever. You know, they mattered. It’s only through us that their stories will be told and it’s through their stories that they are going to matter and we need to continue allowing them that space to matter,” Black said.
She described herself as a believer in the COVID-19 vaccine and urged guests a second time to get a vaccination if they haven’t yet.
“So, I am a believer in the immunizations because I’m here and I don’t think I’d be here if I wouldn’t have gotten the shots. Grace of God,” Black said.
For more information about future COVID-19 Support group information, call Appalachian Counseling Center at 681-404-6869.