FREDERICTON -- While life, in general, is becoming more difficult amid the COVID-19, it can be especially hard on days such as Easter Sunday. With many residents at home in self-isolation, an New Brunswick therapist wants residents to know they can overcome these difficult times, and that there is no shame in seeking help.

Therapist and mental health advocate, Laura Gatien, says when the pandemic was first declared, dozens of people cancelled their therapy sessions. However, recently, business is picking up again, with people seeking help for growing feelings of anxiety, fear, worry, hopelessness, and helplessness.

"What I've been helping people do is try to really work on the things that they can control," says Gatien. "So, that is their perspective and their attitude right now."

She says many of her patients express how much they miss their family and friends, and how difficult that can be on their mental wellbeing – especially on a holiday weekend when families gather.

Recently, Premier Blaine Higgs acknowledged his Easter weekend wouldn't be as family-filled as usual.

"My mother and I were talking about this weekend, and she said: 'are you coming home for Easter dinner?'" said Higgs during a recent press conference. "I said 'absolutely not,' and we discussed the reasons why; she was very understanding that this would not be an Easter that we should celebrate together."

Higgs also acknowledged the difficulties of the lifestyle change to which many residents have had to adapt.

"We believe there's a balance here, because if people don't have a job, if they don't have income, if they don't have a future that they see and a livelihood, they can become more stressed," said Higgs. "We can have social situations that become unbearable – we don't want to see that happen."

In the meantime, New Brunswick's Department of Health has authorized health care professionals to see their patients virtually – including those working in mental health services, like Gatien. She acknowledges the challenges of the times but says brighter days are ahead.

The way my mom put it is: 'we're not cancelling Easter, we're just postponing our celebration as a family,'" says Gatien. "We're doing what we need to do right now for the greater good. Focusing on that in itself, and knowing that you're doing what needs to be done, can give you a sense of empowerment."

Meanwhile, Gatien notes she and her team are available to meet online at any time and is offering low-cost counselling as well as free Friday sessions from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for those struggling financially.