Residents were largely restricted to their homes or the outdoors when most schools and businesses closed on March 20 following the state’s Safer at Home order. But when the county, city and state closed the beaches, trails, trailheads, pier, beach bike paths and beach access points last Friday, March 27, even most outdoor options were wiped out. The confinement, along with an ever-increasing number of county coronavirus cases, sudden lack of income and isolation for many is causing stress, anxiety and depression.

Public and private agencies are trying to help with new online offerings. 

The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM) is offering 15-20 minute virtual mental health counseling sessions from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. three days a week: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, for Malibu public school students and their families.

Randi Goodman, director of the BGCM Wellness Center, said the most common reasons for people calling during the coronavirus emergency are that they or loved ones are suffering from anxiety, depression or disappointment, or feeling trapped or a lack of control.

Sessions with parents usually last 10 to 15 minutes, Goodman said. Most of the 35 students who have called in so far are existing clients.

Additional coronavirus-related mental health services will be announced soon by BGCM, including online group therapy, a teen text health line and a teacher’s support group.

“People aren’t used to being confined or to being with their kids all day,” Goodman explained. “It puts a lot of stress on families and marriages, especially when husbands and wives handle the coronavirus emergency differently.”

“There wasn’t recovery yet from the Woolsey Fire and now we have this,” Goodman added. “We have to rethink family and cooking and eating dinner together. It’s a big switch, like going back to the 1950s.”

Students or parents can set up a counseling session by contacting Goodman at 310.691.6523 or randigoodman@bgcmalibu.org 

Last Friday, March 27, LA County also announced free mental health support services: “With the uncertainties surrounding coronavirus and the challenges of managing such significant changes to our daily lives in such a short period of time, it’s normal to feel a loss of control, fear for safety and heightened anxiety,” said Jonathan Sherin, MD, PhD; director of the LA County Department of Mental Health (DMH), in a press release. “The county is here to help, and we’re available 24/7 with information, resources, and services to address mental health concerns and enhance wellbeing” at 800.854.7771 or dmh.lacounty.gov.

On a lighter note, the City of Malibu created a Virtual Recreation Center to “help residents stay active, engaged and entertained while staying Safe at Home.” Available online at malibucity.org/virtualrec, the site offers free links to yoga, science, music, fitness videos for kids and adults, kid and family activities, art exhibits, crafts, Broadway shows, photo exhibits, ebooks, live webcams, and virtual tours of national parks.

In addition, residents can relieve stress and depression by going to a number of local websites now streaming yoga and exercise classes.  

On March 23, Malibu’s 5 Point Yoga began live-streaming classes from 9–10 a.m. Monday through Friday and 9–10:30 a.m. Saturday on their Facebook page and Instagram: @teddymcdonald. 

Studio owner and instructor Ted McDonald said in a phone interview that the response to their live streaming classes has been “great.” He asks anyone who is able to pay to make a $15 donation per class (see website for instructions). 

“We’ve had 30 to 50 people on Facebook taking classes, and we’re starting two more teachers” he said. “We’re super excited. I have a newsletter and a social media following, and so we’re getting participants from all over the world and out of state. We’re giving everyone an opportunity to move, be healthy and breathe.”

Through it all, McDonald said, they still have to pay rent, and he didn’t think the landlord would give them a break. And, although the streaming classes bring some income, he said revenues are still down 90 percent from before Safer at Home. 

Other Malibu businesses also started offering online classes. Malibu Beach Yoga and JAM (Juicy Athletic Moves) are both live-streaming—see websites for details. 

Malibu Fitness gym is closed, but offers free exercise classes on its website: malibufitness.com/virtual-workouts 

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