Release from First Choice Services:
CHARLESTON — If you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or emotionally exhausted, you’re not alone. Pandemic related stress is high. Many people are worried they or a family member will become sick. Some have lost jobs and insurance and are worried about meeting their family’s basic needs. Making matters worse, routine and social structure have crumbled. With everyone under stress, some feel they have no one to turn to for emotional help. According to a recent poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, 36% of Americans say COVID-19 is having a serious impact on their mental health and 59% feel it is having a serious impact on their day-to-day lives. West Virginians are especially vulnerable. According to a 2018 CDC study, WV was ranked as the “least healthy” state concerning mental health, noting that 18.9% of respondents reported poor mental health 14 of the last 30 days.
A new, free service aims to help West Virginians with COVID-19 related stress. Help304, WV’s Emotional Strengthline, offers support through a hotline, 1-877-HELP-304. This program is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and administered by West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).
The line will be answered by First Choice Services (FCS), a Charleston, WV company that operates several other helplines. Programs operated by FCS include the Help4WV addiction and mental health line, the Problem Gamblers Help Network of WV, the Suicide Lifeline, the Tobacco Quitline, the Jobs and Hope program which helps those in recovery find employment, the ACA Navigator program which assists with enrollment in free and reduced-cost health insurance, and 211, which helps locate resources such as food banks and housing assistance.
FCS reports that calls for the last four months are up 15% over calls during the same time last year. FCS’s CEO, Lata Menon, explained the purpose of the line. “Most of our programs are designed to solve a very specific problem, for instance, by linking someone with an addiction treatment program or locating a food bank for them. We’ve noticed, particularly
over the last few months, callers are stressed and some just need to talk about their issues with someone who cares. They may not be suicidal or think of themselves as in crisis, but they want someone to listen to their concerns and help sort out their emotions, to prevent a crisis. We have professional crisis counselors who are trained to listen and help callers find the way forward. If they need additional resources, we have several in-house programs here that can help.”
West Virginians can find free help by calling 1-877-HELP-304, texting 1-877-4357-304, or visiting www.HELP304.com for online chat. Information on all FCS programs can be accessed at www.FirstChoiceServices.org.