A recent tragedy involving an Upper Keys family and ongoing pandemic stress felt by many were among the major factors for one local woman’s decision in returning to provide mental health counseling.
Pamela Molinaro knew she could counsel those during hardship, whether it be loneliness from not seeing loved ones in some time due to the coronavirus pandemic or stress juggling work and kids at home. She runs Kitchen and Bath Specialists in Islamorada on a full-time basis, but she’s now setting aside time to talk face-to-face with clients needing mental health treatment at the Good Health Clinic in Tavernier.
Molinaro has spent six years as a counselor, with two years in Japan, two years working with the mentally ill at a community center in New York City and two years in the Keys. She moved to the Keys in 2018 with her husband, Joe, who grew up on the islands. Molinaro said she felt compelled to use her counseling abilities after a May 7 incident when 17-year-old Daniel Weisberger fatally stabbed his 14-year-old brother, Pascal, and critically wounded his father, Ariel Poholek.
“It hit me on so many levels,” Molinaro said. “Like anybody else who helps people, whether it be a therapist or psychologist, you want to help people and want to be there in case they’re struggling. And when they are struggling they should know everybody struggles. It doesn’t have to be alone.”
Molinaro reached out to Good Health Clinic and Kate Banick, executive director, to talk about potentially adding mental health counseling to the long list of services offered. Banick said the clinic has wanted counseling and mental health treatment for quite some time. It just so happened that it came down to meeting the right partner at a time when “we needed it the most.”
“For our patients here, to have it here in the clinic, it’s been a great pilot program,” Banick said.
While Molinaro provides in-person sessions at GHC, she also provides services via Zoom for people who aren’t comfortable coming into the clinic. So far, Molinaro said, no one’s turned down a visit to meet with her at the clinic.
“It goes hand-in-hand with anxiety and depression because there’s this isolation that comes in with that,” she said. “To actually see somebody, even though you’re only seeing me from the top of my nose to my forehead, you’re still face-to-face and it’s helpful. It’s a good thing.”
Molinaro said she’s helping some people in their 20s and a number from their 50s to their 70s who are dealing with problems and stress. Molinaro said the pandemic is hitting everybody differently.
“I happen to think for younger generations in grade school, the ones who are learning how to read and comprehend what they read, they’re missing out academically,” she said. “I think older people who have fear of keeping themselves healthy, and now they have these unknown things that loom, I think that becomes a real concern for them. And that kind of stress doesn’t help anything.”
Molinaro said parents are not only having to deal with work, but also maintaining a household with their children now home more than ever due to the pandemic. For teachers, they’re not only teaching but also sending texts to parents whose kids haven’t shown up to class online or didn’t turn in assignments.
“It’s a whole new level of stress on them, and some have their own children to deal with,” she said.
One of the positive aspects of living in the Keys that Molinaro notes is community. Those who need help usually will receive what they need if they speak up, but Molinaro said some are afraid to do so.
“That’s what I try to be out there for … the people who are drowning,” she said.
Good Health Clinic is a health care center with locations in Tavernier and Marathon. Services are provided to Florida Keys residents who meet eligibility requirements. For more information on GHC’s mental health counseling, call 305-853-1788. More information on GHC at thegoodhealthclinic.org.