Spurred by the pandemic, a new phone support line, staffed by volunteer mental health professionals, is now open from 9 am to 9 pm daily until Nov 30, says Trisha Stark, who is helping to organize the line for the Minnesota Psychological Association (MPA) and its partners. Volunteers are mental health professionals who take one hour per week to provide 20-minute support sessions for callers who are under stress. In addition to support, callers may also be given a referral for therapy. (The line does not offer therapy.)
In May, the MPA, Mental Health Minnesota, the Minnesota Association of Black Psychologists, and the Minnesota Psychiatric Society got together to create the phone line for first responders and front-line medical staff. But it soon became clear that stress levels aren’t going down – in fact, a recent report from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated that 40 percent of the U.S. population is suffering from anxiety or depression related to COVID-19, Trisha notes.
“We know that not only medical staff are under stress, but also farmers, employees at meat-packing plants, teachers, parents – and many others. So we opened it up for everyone – and we extended it until Nov. 30,” Trisha says.
The way it works is this: A caller dials 1-833-HERE-4MN, and the call automatically gets directed to the volunteer who is on duty for that one-hour shift. Volunteers’ phone numbers are never seen by the caller.
Volunteers must be licensed mental health professionals, including any of the following: licensed psychologist, social worker, marriage and family therapist, licensed counselor, psychiatrist or APRN. To sign up for a shift, volunteers may visit this link: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/805084AA8AA2FA1FD0-covid19
When referring callers to appropriate resources, volunteers are not permitted to self-refer. They may refer callers to an agency like Walk-In Counseling Center or use FastTrackerMN.org to find other mental health and substance abuse resources.