Have you ever felt alone in a crowd, like you are isolated with your problems? Many of us were taught to be self-sufficient, suck it up, get our act together and get it done on our own so we can feel accomplished.

Although it may not have been said, the implication was that if you couldn’t do it or needed help, you were weak or less of a person. As you can imagine, the isolation caused by our global pandemic has left people feeling anxious and alone and defeated.

Sometimes feelings of isolation cause people to become mentally unstable or depressed and the weight of the world seems unbearable. Mental health experts know this well; it’s understandable, treatable and not unique to Valencia County.

There has been a lot of really tough problems that our county has come face-to-face with lately, and that I see in my court on a daily basis. The pandemic exposed the amount of pressure that people are faced with due to limited opportunities and feelings of isolation. This can cause some to make bad choices to the detriment of themselves and their families.

Valencia County has seen its share of substance abuse, mental health problems and domestic violence that require solutions that are often complex. Feelings of depression and desperation don’t just affect the poor or the down and out — it affects all individuals, young and old, and has no preference on social status.

We have to confront our problems and help others face them when we can in order to be more functional as a community.

Before I was elected, I worked for the Valencia County DWI Drug Court. Part of my job was to help people get back on the road to recovery.

I reviewed cases daily and recognized underlying factors to an individual’s offenses, from struggling with paying their bills to declining mental health. As a former surveillance officer and now as a judge, I am aware of the limited resources that are available for people in the county.

Although they are limited at this time, we do have some resources available to Valencia County citizens. The Community Wellness Council keeps a list of up-to-date resources. They can be contacted through the website at CommunityWellnessCouncil.org or by phone at 505-222-0958.

Even though you may feel alone, there are people who want to help you. Sometimes just reaching out to a trusted family member to share your struggles can make all the difference.

Local counseling services are also available and keep conversations confidential. There are apps available to you on your phone that can help you seek out counseling. The first step, admitting you have a problem, is tough. The second step, asking for help, is harder.

I leave you with this last thought: It is something you may have heard, although I have worded it differently. We need to accept what we cannot change, have the courage to change what we can and when we do not have the wisdom or courage to know the difference, we need to have the strength to ask for help. You are not alone.

(Judge Miles Tafoya is a magistrate in Los Lunas. He is a lifelong resident of Valencia County and was a sergeant in the U.S. Army.)

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