Karin Purugganan still can’t believe it. It’s been two months since she started her own family counseling firm in Del Ray, and she’s completely booked with kids and families.
“When you look at your family, is it functioning the way you want?” Purugganan said. “If it’s not, how can we change that? If there’s friction between two family members, how are we addressing that?”
Purugganan, an Alexandria native and T.C. Williams High School graduate, opened wonderologie counseling and wellness at 2312 Mt. Vernon Avenue in May, and now has 19 clients. That’s enough to keep her busy until the fall, she says.
“This pandemic opened parents’ eyes to mental health concerns with their kids,” she said. “A couple of my clients actually did great. The social isolation was perfect for them and they needed a break from school. For the majority of my other clients it’s been really really stressful, and my caseload is full and everyone I refer to is full.”
Mental health issues have risen nationwide due to the pandemic, with adults and children reporting adverse mental health, substance use and other effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Purugganan also has five kids, and completely left her life as a respiratory therapist after her husband Alex had a heart attack a few years ago. She ended up going back to school and getting a degree in educational psychology from the University of Virginia and a graduate degree in education and human development from the George Washington University.
“It made us realize we had been ships passing in the night,” Purugganan said. “This doesn’t even feel like work now, because I enjoy it so much. I used to work nights and he would work days to make extra money. We were just really burning the candle at both ends, and it made us realize it wasn’t sustainable.”
Purugganan uses a lot of toys and games to interact with her clients.
“You will see a lot of toys in my office,” she said. “It can be really tricky for me to try to figure out how to give them all the tools they need to be as cohesive as possible and happy.”
Alexandria Police have executed an emergency custody order (ECO) for a West End man with a history of mental illness and violent behavior.
As of April 21, Cody Patrick Canniff was under evaluation at Inova Alexandria Hospital after throwing a “large tree” at an Alexandria Police officer outside his apartment building in the 300 block of Yoakum Parkway. The incident was the second mental health complaint against Canniff that day.
Canniff was arrested for brandishing a firearm against a family inside a 7-Eleven convenience store in 2012, and was also arrested for assault and battery against his then-wife in October 2016.
Four years later, on Dec. 26, 2020, Canniff was then taken into custody under an ECO after allegedly throwing machetes at people from his balcony, according to police. Several knives and a Smith and Wesson handgun were seized.
“Mr. Canniff stated that the devil had taken custody of his body,” Police said of the Dec. 26, 2020 incident.
Canniff was also taken into custody for an ECO in February for allegedly walking around his apartment complex and threatening residents with a machete.
“During the incident, he was mentally unstable and not making coherent statements and also attempted to jump out the window,” police said in a search warrant affidavit.
Also in February, Canniff’s girlfriend reported to police that he abducted and physically assaulted her multiple times.
Police conducted another search for weapons at his apartment after he was taken into custody on April 21, and said in the search warrant that it was necessary to do so “for his safety as well as the community’s.”
There have been six additional deaths from COVID-19 in Alexandria, as the death toll from the virus now stands at 83.
The victims were three men and two women, and three of the victims were in their 80s and two were in their 60s. Information on the sixth victim is not available, as the city says there is a reporting lag with the Virginia Department of Health.
“This is the most deaths related to COVID-19 in a one-week period since June, and the total is now 83 deaths,” the Alexandria Health Department noted. “The increase in fatalities coincides with Alexandria’s highest seven-day running average of (41.6) positive cases since the pandemic began.”
There are now or have been 5,790 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, a jump of 424 cases since this time last week.
There have also been 383 total hospitalizations since the onset of the pandemic in Alexandria. About one in 13 city residents who tested positive for the virus have been hospitalized, according to the Alexandria Health Department.
Across Virginia, there have been 4,208 deaths and there are or have been 258,870 cases of the virus. There have been 3.5 million PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and the state’s seven-day positivity rate is 10.8%.
Mental health-related emergency room visits are also on the rise, according to the city.
“The holidays are normally a time of increased stress, but with more positive cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria and the region, this year’s holiday stress may be compounded by feelings of isolation and depression,” according to AHD. “Self-care techniques, such as reaching out to loved ones, exercising and getting enough sleep, can help manage normal holiday stress. The City has compiled coping resources.”
There are or have been 3,024 women (with 40 deaths) and 2,749 men (with 42 deaths) in Alexandria with the virus. The only age groups that have not experienced a death so far are children and teenagers.
- 80+ — 36 deaths, 157 cases
- 70-79 — 21 deaths, 194 cases
- 60-69 — Seven deaths, 430 cases
- 50-59 — 14 deaths, 696 cases
- 40-49 — One death, 990 cases
- 30-39 — Two deaths, 1,336 cases
- 20-29 — One death, 1,159 cases
- 10-19 — Zero deaths, 402 cases
- 0-9 — Zero deaths, 404 cases
*One death not reported
Latino residents have the most infections with 2,416 reported cases (with 14 deaths), white residents with 1,277 cases (45 deaths), and Black residents with 1,138 cases (19 deaths). There are 207 cases with Asian or Pacific Islander residents (one death), 160 cases classified as “other” (two deaths) and four native American cases (no deaths).
There have also been 49 outbreaks in the city (an increase of six since last week), including 12 at long term care facilities, 28 in congregate settings, foive in child care settings, one at a college, one in a K-12 setting and one at a correctional facility.
There have been 540 cases associated with the outbreaks. Health care workers also make up 370 positive COVID cases, according to VDH.
There have been 70,396 COVID tests administered in the city; 5,604 antibody tests and 1,984 antigen tests. The city’s seven-day positivity rate is now at 8.4%.
- Arlington County has 6,904 cases, 158 deaths and a 8.7% seven-day positivity rate
- Fairfax County has 34,108 cases, 641 deaths and a 11.7% seven-day positivity rate
- Loudoun County has 10,832 cases, 150 deaths and a 11.7% seven-day positivity rate
Need a test? Find out where tests are administered here.
Cases By ZIP Code
The areas of the city with the leading number of cases are the 22304, 22305 and 22312 ZIP codes, which include the West End and Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods.
Some of the areas share jurisdictions between Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax Counties:
- 22301 — 239 cases, 6,312 people tested (Estimated population 15,171)
- 22302 — 653 cases, 11,170 people tested (Estimated population 20,238)
- 22304 — 1,825 cases, 20,826 people tested (Estimated population 54,003)
- 22305 — 1,074 cases, 8,098 people tested (Estimated population 16,095)
- 22311 — 1,014 cases, 9,147 people tested (Estimated population 16,898)
- 22312 — 1,426 cases, 11,760 people tested (Estimated population 6,901)
- 22314 — 676 cases, 14,843 people tested (Estimated population 47,826)
Photo via CDC/Unsplash
People tend to fall into familiar patterns, and Alexandria Psychologist Dr. Eleni Boosalis wants her new podcast to help folks get unstuck.
“The pandemic has caused about half of people in the U.S. to have symptoms of anxiety and depression that are pretty severe,” Boosalis told ALXnow. “We also don’t have the benefit of social connections, or routine and predictability. It just seems like from moment to moment we don’t know what’s gonna happen, so everyone’s just in this perpetual state of anxiety right now.”
Boosalis, the owner of Del Ray Psych & Wellness, launched “Why Does This Keep Happening To Me? with Dr. B” on Tuesday (Nov. 10). The shows will be a mix of monologues and conversations about helpful topics.
Boosalis says that her nine therapists have a four month waitlist and she is considering hiring more help.
“We have seen an increase in couples therapy requests, and we have also seen an increase in like substance abuse, depression, panic disorders, and things like that,” she said.
Boosalis has been a psychologist for the last 15 years, and she constantly hears her clients say, “Why does this keep happening to me? I feel stuck.”
“There’s this phenomenon that’s called the repetition compulsion in one of the models of psychotherapy,” she said. “The idea is that we all compulsively repeat and recreate patterns in our life where we feel powerless. We learned that from childhood.”
Boosalis said that improving your state of mind begins with mindfulness.
“Even if it’s uncomfortable, we’re comfortable in our discomfort at times,” she said. “If we can slow down and be in the moment and notice our thoughts, and notice the patterns of our thoughts and the patterns of our choices, then that leads a person to that ‘Aha!’ moment, where you know why you did that, because there’s usually no gap between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. People act, think and feel all at once in one second. The goal is to separate those out and be more aware of yourself.”
The Alexandria Police Department has resolved an incident with an adult male experiencing a psychotic episode in the West End.
The police tweeted at 12:29 p.m. on Friday (October 23) that a person was being helped with a mental health crisis in the 500 block of North Howard Street, and approximately 10 officers were at the scene when the man’s behavior was reported to police at around noon, according to Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine.
“He’s basically in a psychotic state and he needs assistance,” Ballantine told ALXnow. “We’re working to get that to him in the safest way possible.”
At around 1 p.m., Ballantine reported that the man was “receiving services,” but could not confirm if he was taken to the hospital.
Ballantine said that the man was not suicidal, did not have a weapon, and talked to police while apparently alone in his apartment.
Ballantine said he sent out the tweet to alert the public about an increased police presence in the area, which is near apartment buildings and is blocks away from the Shoppes of Foxchase on Duke Street.
NOTIFICATION :: The Alexandria Police Department is assisting a subject in a mental health crisis in the 500 block of North Howard Street. Expect police activity in the area.
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) October 23, 2020
The wellness-related businesses in Del Ray have banded together to form The Wellness District, and the annual week devoted to providing care to the community has expanded into the entire month of September.
All this month is Wellness Month in Del Ray, and the offerings include gong meditations, outdoor yoga and free mental health webinars.
“Here’s the scoop,” Dr. Lauren Fisher, co-owner of Del Ray Psych and Wellness, told ALXnow. “There’s no time like the present for people to really be focusing on their wellness across the board, so we are doing a bunch of promos and free classes and different offerings. That will help the public acquainted with some of the wellness providers they are not familiar with in Del Ray. I think a lot of people don’t know how much there is in this small area.”
Wellness Week is usually celebrated in the third week in September, according to Visit Del Ray.
Y’all ready for an outdoor Hoopshop? Debora is serving up her skills in September! Let’s connect outside and with plenty…
“Del Ray has become the center of health and wellness in the region, with a wide range of award-winning wellness providers and fitness studios,” said Del Ray Business Association President Sue Kovalsky. “We are proud of the incredible work that The Wellness District does to connect the community to resources that help them live their best lives.”
Dr. Lola Capps, the owner of Chrysalis Chiropractic, said she has seen a dramatic increase in the number of wellness businesses in the area since she opened in 2003.
“We have since seen the wellness businesses explode here, and it seemed apparent that the next natural growth opportunity for the DRBA wellness businesses was to collectively deem ourselves The Wellness District,” Capps said.
Check out the Wellness District’s offerings below the jump.
The following Letter to the Editor was written by Dr. Lauren Fisher, co-owner of Del Ray Psych and Wellness.
My message for people reading this is: You will get through this.
I am sitting at my kitchen table drinking my morning coffee, watching the birds, and doing my daily planning. The sky is bright blue with soft pillows of white and gray clouds rolling onto the horizon. For a moment, it feels normal and I revel in the peace of that familiarity.
The forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms today. The exact time or intensity of the rain storm is uncertain, but we know the general timeline of when the storm will end and when the sun will shine again. The radar models allow us to visually see the storms pass over our location. We can relax in knowing where the end is and we can adjust expectations and schedules accordingly.
I think that most of you would agree that the Pandemic is like one major ongoing rain storm that is moving through our lives, with a rotating mix of heavy rains, gray days, and moments of sunshine and brightness. Our daily routines have been disrupted, anxiety about health and fear of survival is dominant, economic disruption and financial stress is pervasive, and our emotional tolerance for discomfort is being tested daily. Unlike the actual storm of today, the exact course of the pandemic is still unknown and the aftermath of how our world looks is yet to be seen.
During trying times, I find the old adage “This too shall pass,” to be fitting words to keep in the forefront of my mind. After all, there must be a reason that this saying has persisted for thousands of years.
Our ancestors have survived hardships for thousands of years, including diseases, wars, famine, and political, economic, religious, and racial oppression. You are here because of your ancestors’ desire to survive and their determination to forge a path forward during their darkest days. You are biologically hardwired to survive. In fact, many of you have probably already weathered hardships in your lives and, as a result, discovered strengths that you didn’t even know that you possessed. The hardships and dark days are the moments in which your resilience begins, or your ability to positively adapt to situations as they come. Whether this is your first hardship or one of many, the rest of us are here to support you, to remind you that this will not last forever, and to help you find your personal power to navigate through this storm.
The secret truly is taking one day at a time and putting one foot in front of the other. While we cannot control or predict the course of the Pandemic “storm” we have the power to choose how we react to the situational stressors in front of us.
If we are scared about our health, we can keep worrying about the future without any resolution or we can take steps to keep ourselves healthy through social distancing, protective gear, and healthy nutrition. If we are sad and lonely, we can drink and eat away our sadness, or we can reach out to a friend, online group, or therapist for connection. If we are anxious, we can consume more news that worsens our anxiety or we can choose to soothe our nervous systems by taking a walk, listening to music, or breathing. If we are faced with financial burdens, we can assume the victim role or we can figure out what resources are available for relief at this time. If we are frustrated with the restrictions, we can choose to complain about this tirelessly or we can choose to be grateful that we are alive. If we feel powerless, we can choose to do nothing or we can choose to help ourselves or someone else in need.
With a somewhat unknown future, the best we can do is to take things day by day. Each day, we can assess what we need for our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Some reliable and proven methods to promote our well-being and to regulate the current emotional stress are:
- Creating a daily schedule with focused goals, maintaining a routine that is closest to your
- Taking care of your personal hygiene
- Eating nutritious meals,
- Exercise and movement
- Healthy sleep patterns
- Connecting with other people daily
- Being prepared by ordering supplies ahead of time (food, toiletries, prescriptions)
- Finding ways to stay calm
- Engaging in meaningful experiences
At times like these, we consciously need to be filling our personal tanks of internal resources because the persistent stress of the situation already has functioning lower. Conversely, we need to be aware of the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are depleting our tanks and work on minimizing these, while also giving ourselves the grace to not be perfect.
Overall, the way in which we choose to take care of ourselves will impact our emotional experiences during this pandemic. Many people struggle with allowing themselves to experience negative emotions because of the actual physiological discomfort or because they believe that experiencing and showing emotions are a sign of weakness. In my opinion, true strength comes from the realization that experiencing a full range of emotions is part of the human condition. Acknowledging our emotions, to ourselves or others, frees us to move through the emotion and to identify what we need in that moment to release the emotion. There is ample opportunity to practice this during the pandemic because the majority of people are feeling varying degrees of anxiety, fear, sadness, and loneliness. It is true, you are not alone. In fact, this is one of the rare times that nearly everyone, literally, everyone around the globe is experiencing the same hardship. There has never been a more ideal time to practice expressing your feelings because others get it.
The good news is that in the middle of any storm, there are rays of sunlight or peaceful lulls between rolls of thunder and lightning. We can choose to find things that we are grateful for each day. We can appreciate the positives of pandemic life such as connecting more with family and friends, being able to exercise more, and/or having a less rushed day without commutes or over-involvement in activities.
We can be proud of ourselves in the ways in which we have shown resilience during these past few weeks, especially in the ways we creatively learned to adapt to the new situation. We can choose to find personal growth during this era, and who knows, perhaps even develop a healthier mindset and habits that we can carry forward.
ALXnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity, at our discretion.
Staff photo by James Cullum
Mayor Marries Couple in Socially Distant Ceremony — “Alanis sang about rain on your wedding day. I’m not sure she envisioned THIS. It was such an honor to put on real pants (first time in weeks!), grab my mask and walk to Parkfairfax to marry a wonderful couple whose original plans were scrambled. Congrats!” [Facebook]
‘Mind The Mat’ Hosting Virtual Meditations at 9 a.m. — “Join MtM Monday-Friday mornings for this free 15 minute guided mediation to start your day off right.” [Facebook]
Volunteer Alexandria Hosting Responsiveness Class — “Be prepared, not scared. Know what to do until help arrives. Two classes are available: Tuesday, April 21, 6 to 10 p.m. and Saturday April 25, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. You’ll learn how to recognize violent activities, provide immediate rescue tactics, and report them to 9-1-1 efficiently.” [Facebook]
Del Ray Psyche & Wellness Starts 10-Day Challenge — “The purpose to continue to implement strategies and habits that will increase positive well-being, during the pandemic and throughout life. Each person who participates for all 10 days and comments on the post will receive a special gift from Del Ray Psych. If you wish to participate, please join our group below and comment on the post, ‘I’m in!'” [Facebook]
West End Business Association Hosting Fitness Webinar — Alan Gulledge, the founder of TriFit Evolution will discuss the how exercise can boost physical and mental health, establishing an effective fitness routine and working out with minimal equipment at home. The presentation will be conducted from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and costs $5. [WEBA]
‘Meggrolls’ Gets Southern Living Magazine Mention — “It’s an extraordinary time. Thousands of hard-working small business owners are digging deeper than they’ve ever thought they were able, to find a safe path through a seemingly insurmountable journey. It’s an incredible feeling to know that others are so willing to help. Thank you @southernlivingmag for sharing the word that Meggrolls is open for businessand we’re gonna stay that way as long as we’re able❤️❤️” [Facebook]
Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota Reveals Raffle Grand Prize — “Need SOMETHING to Look Forward To??!! YOU can STILL Enter our GRAND PRIZE Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota Raffle to W-I-N $25,000 OR a 2020 Toyota RAV-4
$100 for a CHANCE to WIN…DRAWING L-I-V-E Online MAY 30th at 8pm. Watch for Details on How To Tune-In! All funds collected HELP Send T.C. Williams High School Class of 2020 Kids to COLLEGE.” [Facebook]
Sen. Ebbin Hosting Virtual Town Hall Tonight — “Join us for AYD’s virtual town hall on April 21st at 7 pm with Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin interviewed by AYD President Dan Matthews on the impact of COVID-19 on Virginia Legislation.” [Facebook]
Alexandria Library Increases Online Music Catalog — “Freegal Music is a digital music service offering downloads and streaming. Through a partnership, city library branches can offer the service to patrons for free. All that is needed for access is a library card.” [Zebra]
ACPS School Nurses Send Message to Students in Photo Collage — “This is so cool. Thank you to some of our frontline people. Nurses are awesome.” [Facebook]
City Releases Two Week Repaving Schedule — “Some overnight work on heavily traveled streets may be necessary. Residents on affected streets are notified in advance and temporary ‘No Parking” signs are displayed. Heavy equipment is used and there will be some noise that carries to surrounding streets.” [Facebook]
Kim’s Cleaners Donates Masks to Police — “Today Officer Ignacio stopped by Kim’s Cleaners in Old Town to pick up 50 facemasks from Mrs. Kim! Every bit helps and is appreciated! #socialdistancing” [Twitter]
Co-owner Dr. Lauren Fisher has some simple advice during these stressful days: stay present and focus on what you know and what you can control at this time.
Lately, the Del Ray therapist has been meeting online with dozens of her clients and setting up support groups. With nine total therapists on staff working from home, the entire practice has gone completely digital. Hundreds of their clients are now only able to connect with their therapists online or on the phone.
“We’ve gotten a lot more requests for appointments, especially from couples,” Fisher told ALXnow. “People can’t avoid each other anymore. You’re having a lot of families and couples with dysfunction that are being forced to stay in the same house where some of their usual coping would be avoiding or leaving, and in some cases that’s actually good because families can be toxic.”
Fisher’s latest group, Connection Without Infection: A Free Therapist Led Support Group, provides tips and resources on Facebook on how to cope with the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic. This weekend, she will also launch another Facebook page to help parents though the pandemic.
“Things are changing day-to-day, so it’s important to have a plan of action every day and know how to spend our time,” Fisher told ALXnow. “We know that this will end and folks should keep a schedule as consistently as possible, with boundaries around work, meals, exercise and connections — the things we would do in our regular daily lives to stay mentally fit.”
The pandemic is also a collective experience, which, Fisher said, is making her therapists able to empathize with their patients on a much deeper level.
“For the first time we’re actually experiencing a shared trauma and crisis with our clients,” she said. “But most of our clients are doing pretty well, which actually makes me think that we’ve actually done a good job of helping them. So, I feel like we’re trying to maintain and make room for the people who are struggling.”
Alexandria’s Department of Community and Human Services will host its second annual mental health first aid (MHFA) training program this month.
Laypersons and paraprofessionals alike are encouraged to participate in the eight-hour training and certification program.
The first session, which will focus on youth, will be conducted on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and a second session focusing on adults mental health first aid will be held Feb. 26 and Feb. 27 from 1-5 p.m. Both training seminars will be held at the Alexandria Health Department (4480 King Street).
“The training demonstrates the initial help given to a person showing signs of mental illness or a mental health crisis,” according to the city. “The course teaches risk factors, warning signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders, the effects of the illnesses, an overview of treatments and a five-step action plan for helping someone with symptoms.”
There are about 239,000 adult Virginians with a serious mental illness, which at around 4% is on par with the national average, according to a 2015 report.
The MHFA program is designed to help people identify and respond to the signs of mental illness and addiction. Those interested must register online and there is room for 20 participants in each course, but the classes will be canceled if there are fewer than 10 registrants.
Alexandria offers 24 hour adult mental health outpatient services for residents at the Alexandria Community Services Board (720 North St. Asaph Street).
Available services include:
- Individual, group and family counseling
- Medication management
- Emergency mental health services 24 hours a day
- Assistance with admission to hospitals for psychiatric care
- Case management to help access and coordinate services
- In-home counseling services for the elderly or children in crisis
- Confidential testing for HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis