BRISTOL, Va. — Anxiety, depression and trauma have risen across the U.S. under the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To help counteract some of the mental health struggles people in the Twin City face, the Bristol Crisis Center plans to open a calming room in its location at 100 Oakview Ave., Bristol, Virginia later this month.
Rachael Voelker, executive director of the center, said since the pandemic started, suicide rates and domestic violence rates have risen. The room will allow anyone, whether they have existing mental illness, a first-responder dealing with trauma or stress from work or someone who just feels overwhelmed by life, to relax and decompress for free, in a space specifically set aside for that purpose.
The room will be outfitted with five special reclining chairs, two of which will be disability accessible and three outfitted with an airbag attachment that will make those seated feel snug.
Those at the Crisis Center also plan to play calming music and use soothing aromas in the room. Voelker said all these items and features are backed by research that shows they can help reduce anxiety and stress.
“Being in a dark space decreases anxiety. When someone is in a crisis, they are often hypersensitive to what’s going on around them,” Voelker said.
She added that crisis counselors will also be available to help.
The soft opening for the room is set for Sept. 25, and the event will feature a live band performance, snacks, a silent auction and ceremony memorializing those who killed themselves.
The calming room is set to open to the public on Sept. 28 and initially will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. However, Voelker said the plan is to eventually extend the hours to 9 a.m. to midnight during the week and then make the room available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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