HOUSTON (DECEMBER 21, 2020) – In March 2020, the Texas Health and Human Services launched a 24/7 statewide mental health support line to help Texans experiencing anxiety, stress, or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Operated by the Houston-based The Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual Development and Disability (The Harris Center), the support line continues to offer trauma-informed support and psychological first aid as COVID-19 cases increase and the pandemic brings new challenges during the holiday season.
“Approximately 53% of adults reported that the stress of COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health. As we begin to see another wave of cases, we understand that this could be a very difficult time for individuals during the holidays,” said Wayne Young, CEO, of the Harris Center. “We want Houstonians to know that while things may be different during the holidays, they are not alone, and it can be helpful to talk to someone. Needing help is normal; and trained and caring responders are one call away to listen and help, 24 hours a day.”
According to Neal Sarahan, Executive Director, at The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Houston, people already living with mental illness are now also affected by the holiday blues. People who are not affected by mental illness are now also stressed and their mental wellness is challenged. Their symptoms must be taken seriously as short-term mental health problems can lead to clinical anxiety and depression.
Young added, “We typically see an uptick in calls during the holiday season and we expect to answer more calls as people may feel lonelier and more anxious due to gathering restrictions or experience fear and worry about their own health, or a loved one’s health.”
The confidential support line can offer resources and support and is available for all Texans through the Texans Recovering Together Program. The line partners with Universe Translation Services and offers over 100 different language options. People can call the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week toll-free at 1-833-986-1919.
Since the support line launched in March, the Center has answered and connected 9,420 calls from 189 counties in Texas. The Center has noticed the spikes in calls have coincided with reporting of increased cases or new restrictions, etc. In November, the Center answered a total of 719 calls with 242 of calls answered during the week of Thanksgiving. Specifically in Harris County, the support line has answered more than 1,400 calls since March. Harris County and the surrounding Greater Houston counties lead the numbers of calls answered in Texas. The support line has answered calls from individuals as young as 18 to 64 plus. More than half of the callers are reaching out for emotional support.
Sample of calls answered included a caller who experienced increased anxiety due to the death of her father because she could not attend his funeral due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Another caller was overwhelmed with balancing work and family, and an elderly person was having difficulty seeking routine medical care during this time. Mental health responders provided a variety of techniques for immediate treatment including breathing practices, meditation, as well as resources for long-term care.
As the pandemic continues to bring new challenges, mental health can be impacted at any time and to anyone whether they suffer from mental health issues or new issues arise. The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD encourages individuals and loved ones to lookout for signs and symptoms and seek immediate attention for help.
The support line is funded by Texas Health and Human Services.
For general health-related information and precautions on COVID-19, people can visit the DSHS webpage and the CDC webpage. To stay up-to-date on the latest news impacting HHS services and regulated providers, people can visit the HHS COVID-19 webpage. For more information on The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, please visit www.theharriscenter.org.