They just want someone to talk to: This mental health hotline is helping Texans navigate the pandemic
Within the first month of its launch, the state’s new mental health support line received nearly 2,000 calls from Texans in 100 counties who were experiencing fears of getting sick, feelings of isolation from social distancing and anxiety over a crashing economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The mental health support line was first pitched as a way to serve health care providers working at drive-thru coronavirus testing locations in Harris County but was expanded to serve all of the county’s residents when it launched March 17.
The Harris Center, a health authority in the Houston area, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission — which had seen a 500% jump in traffic to its webpages on mental health and substance abuse resources — joined the effort soon after to expand the service to callers statewide March 31.
The economic fallout from the pandemic — about 1.8 million Texans applied for unemployment insurance in the last seven weeks — will directly and indirectly affect the rates of mental health and substance abuse disorders for months or years to come, according to experts.
A recent study by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute projects that for every 5 percentage point increase in the state’s unemployment rate, an additional 725 Texans could die each year by suicide and drug overdose. The study recommends that policy makers and health care systems prepare for an increase in people seeking help.
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