Posted on Apr 14, 2020, 3 p.m.
Calls to helplines are increasing in America by as much as 891%, experts are warning of a mental health crisis and some officials are worried that America is not prepared to meet with this issue as well.
Compared to this time last year the national hotline that provides emergency help to those suffering from emotional stress has received 9 times more calls, with tens of thousands of Americans reaching out for assistance amid the current outbreak, according to officials.
Officials on the front lines of this outbreak are warning of a mental health crisis that will likely continue to increase over the coming weeks that the agencies have yet to properly prepare for.
The administration has approved millions of dollars in federal funding to boost mental health services, but some officials are suggesting that even this additional money may not be enough to support the increased counseling that will be needed amidst this crisis in the coming weeks of shut downs, social distancing and isolation.
The Disaster Distress Helpline at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration experienced an 891% increase in call volume last month in comparison to March of 2019, according to a spokesperson for the agency.
March 2020 experienced 338% more calls to the helpline than February 2020 when the outbreak really began to take hold in America and officials began to take more extreme measures to stop its spread. While specific total figures were not given, last month the agency received more than 22,000 calls and text messages from people seeking help.
Over the past weeks mental health has been discussed sporadically during official briefings. The President himself has even suggested to expect a massive jump in mental health issues. “You’re going to have massive depression,” he said. “You’re going to have depression in the economy also. … [Expect] massive drug use, massive depression, mental depression, massive numbers of suicide.”
The President signed a $2 Trillion emergency relief package known as the CARES ACT that sets aside $425 million for SAMHSA to help address mental health and substance use disorders that may arise as a result of this crisis, another $100 million has been marked to supplement the federal grant programs, and the bill includes $250 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics to increase access to mental health care services, as well as another $50 million for suicide prevention efforts, according to Health and Human Services.
According to the SAMHSA spokesperson they have been working closely with other agencies to address the growing mental health problems and to relax federal restrictions to make it easier for Americans to access the help that they need. But according to the official efforts thus far may still be insufficient to address what is believed will be happening in the weeks ahead, especially as the need for crisis counseling expands.
“Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children,” SAMHSA noted on its website devoted to the coronavirus.
Many Americans are experiencing increased fear, stress, and anxiety about stay at home and shelter in place orders, social distancing, supply shortages, unemployment, being sick, as well as this being not only on a national but global scale, along with worries of increased restrictions. Homeland security officials are hoping that the already unstable Americans could be propelled to stress induced violence associated with the pandemic and restrictions.
According to SAMHSA there are currently 57.8 million Americans that are currently living with mental or substance use disorders. The Disaster Distress Helpline is fully operational 24 hours a day for all 7 days of the week, all year long. It is staffed to “provide counseling and support before, during, and after disasters, and refer people to local disaster-related resources for follow-up care and support,” according to the agency’s website.
If you or anyone you know in America needs help please use one of the following toll free multilingual and confidential crisis support service numbers to connect with a trained crisis counselor:
The Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-2990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
The TTY number is 1-800-846-8517 and the main DDH hotline is 1-800-985-5990.
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