Economy got you down? Is your blood pressure rising and falling with the stock market index? Anxious about who will be the next leader of the free world? Is your confidence melting like so much Arctic ice?

You’re not alone, psychologist and therapist Suzanne Rapley says.

“You take a look at the global concerns and the state of affairs of our planet, and our world — at least from an American perspective — as we know it, and it suddenly it can look so tenuous,” she said.

Locally, people already have been dealing with global warming, rising fuel costs and reduced budgets. Some are getting kicked out of homes they couldn’t afford because of the subprime mortgage debacle. Add to that the near-death experience on Wall Street last week and the intensifying local and national political scene, and it’s no wonder people are feeling like we’re going somewhere in a hand basket these days.

“In my practice, there have been a lot of people really stressed out in their relationships, financially, also because of the environment,” Rapley said. By last Saturday, with the country still reeling from the roller coaster on Wall Street and the first presidential debate, even she woke up overwhelmed.

She managed to deal with the anxiety. However, not everyone has the 30 years of experience she has in dealing with emotional crisis, so she has decided that for the next few months she will reach out to as many people as she can, people who could use a little help with the pressures of modern American life. It’s a program that’s arguably the first of its kind in this area.

In a document modestly titled “Proposal for Community Outreach,” Rapley and her intern, local surf blogger and San Marcos High School parent Jon Shafer, who is a licensed pre-professional in marriage and family therapy, will offer “counseling and resources for the Santa Barbara community in this time of economic instability, political debate, environmental fragility and relational challenges.”

The best part is, especially for those who are watching their finances dry up, no one will be turned away for their inability to pay.

But before people from Goleta, Santa Barbara — “probably not Montecito,” Shafer says — and Carpinteria beat a path to Rapley’s office at 115 W. Arrellaga St. in Santa Barbara, they are encouraged to first call 805.963.3329.

From there, they can work out a schedule for anything from a single counseling session to a series of family sessions to an ongoing support group.

The aim of the sessions is to work together to come up with some kind of strategy to weather the storm.

“Part of it is just to get together with other people who are feeling the same way and build a support system,” Shafer said.

But it’s not just about feeling good enough and smart enough. Decreasing stress, Rapley says, could even go so far as to help the economy by decreasing time off from work because of illness, and curbing people’s tendencies toward impulsive acts, crime, addictions and emotional meltdowns.

Eventually, the pair might enlist the help of other professionals in the area to provide more and different services, but for the moment, the program is something like triage for an emotional disaster.

“My idea is to get folks assessed quickly and be able to offer them some options,” Rapley said.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at