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'You aren’t alone in this' | Crisis hotlines need volunteers to help in extremely high COVID-19 call volume

Helplines have been seeing a huge increase in calls since the pandemic started. Front line workers are also experiencing a rise in mental health crisis'.
Credit: WXIA

Calls to the U.S. Disaster Distress Helpline were up 1,000 percent last month.

Other crisis hotlines across the country are also experiencing a skyrocket in call volume. They are in need of more volunteers to help answer the phone lines. 

Hotline call-takers nationwide are experiencing another effect of the pandemic.

In Georgia, call-takers are working tirelessly for a new COVID-19 emotional support line. Meanwhile, mental health advocates are begging for federal funding assistance, predicting front line healthcare workers are most at risk for suicide.

Terri Timberlake is the director for adult mental health at the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities. She oversees the state’s adult community mental health programs, including their new COVID-19 emotional support line.

“They want to know they aren’t the only ones struggling with the isolation and the uncertainty that all of this brings,” said Timberlake.

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She described one caller who simply needed a place to cry.

“That’s what we’re hearing from many of the callers, they want to know someone cares about them,” said Timberlake, “They don’t want to feel alone.”

Helplines nationwide are reporting an increase in calls from first responders –such as doctors, nurses, and paramedics.

“They’re working insane hours, they can’t be around their family without being afraid of infecting them," said Lauren Foster, executive director of HopeLine, Inc. "They’re kind of in this bubble, this crisis bubble, 24 hours a day. There’s a reason that veterans or active military have higher rates of suicide and mental illness because of the trauma that they experience, it would be the same in this scenario.”

HopeLine is a crisis intervention and suicide prevention phone and text line based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. They have 80 volunteers working from home, splitting hundreds more calls than typical.

Foster said 90 percent of people are calling because of COVID-19.

Credit: WXIA

“I’ve been in this field of work for five years now, and I’ve never seen an issue that affects everyone like this,” said Foster.

A national physician support line recently launched out of D.C. drew 500 volunteers in its first 4 days.

“It’s hard when there isn’t really any end sight in the pandemic. There’s so many unknowns so it’s really difficult to endure that for that long,” said Foster. “Don’t carry this burden alone, you aren’t alone in this.”

For a list of hotlines, no matter the location or situation, Pleaselive.org provides a resource.

Donations to HopeLine can be made through their website.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.  

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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