Governor Launches Free Emotional Text Support Line Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
By Kyle Cunningham
With mental health being another key component in the COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor J.B Pritzker announced Saturday that the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Mental Health Division has launched “Call4Calm”, a completely free-of-charge emotional support text line as well as telehealth services for both primary care and mental health.
During this time many people that suffer from pre-existing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression have found isolation and social distancing to be something that has only enhanced these negative feelings
“For individuals who have an existing mental health disorder this may have an even greater impact,” Executive Director of the Madison County Mental Health Board, Deborah Humphrey said.
Right now many who are mentally suffering are forced to stay at home and use whatever coping mechanisms they have in order to help fend off these feelings of hopelessness, that could be hard to keep up as social distancing continues.
“The longer the duration, there is a greater risk of deterioration of ones coping mechanisms,” Humphrey said.
Both telehealth and the emotional support hotline are believed to be two tools that will help combat the rise of anxiety and depression during this time. One aspect that is particularly enticing is a free way to receive help and support while remaining totally anonymous, something that is paramount due to the stigma of mental health according to Humphrey.
“Mental health stigma often times prevents individuals from seeking mental health treatment. “Individuals don’t want to of to a mental health agency for dear that someone will see them and know they are having mental health issues with adds to their stress of being stigmatized.”
Currently the Madison County Mental Health Board funds fourteen mental health agencies that serve county residents. All of the outpatient services have moved quickly in preparing to respond to COVID-19 by offering telehealth virtual support.
As of now online communication for support services have been a good resource for those needing assistance.
“Reports so far with using Zoom and other technology for support groups have been extremely positive and I anticipate that there will be increased use of telehealth/telemedicine technology in the future,” Humphrey said.
The newly available Remote Patient Monitoring Program utilizing telehealth services will reduce barriers to health and mental health services to support residents across Illinois with a focus on undeserved communities and those at risk during the pandemic.
To help see all our residents through this pandemic, the Department has contracted for these specific at home COVID-19 supports for anyone in the state regardless whether they are insured,” Director of Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Theresa Eagleson stated in a recent press release.
When using the ’Call4Calm’ text line for emotional support an individual who would like to speak with a mental health profession can text “TALK” to 552020, or for Spanish, “HABLAR” to the same number. Once a resident sends a text to the hotline, within 24 hours they will receive a call from a counselor employed by a local community mental health center to provide support. Individuals can also text the number with key words such as “unemployment”, “food” or “shelter” and will receive information on how to navigate and access supports and services.
In Madison County the Mental Health Department is doing whatever they can to provide assistance to those in need.
“We are working to communicate to the general public through the media and other marketing all of the resources available,” Humphrey said. “We have an information specialist who is responding to calls and helping direct individuals to the appropriate services needed.”