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State urges Michiganders suffering from pandemic-related distress to speak with crisis counselors

State urges Michiganders suffering from pandemic-related distress to speak with crisis counselors
Posted at 12:04 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 12:04:45-04

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is urging residents who are suffering from COVID-19-related emotional distress to seek relief by talking to a crisis counselor.

The “Be Kind to Your Mind” campaign promotes the use of Michigan’s confidential Stay Well counseling line and aims to combat stigma associated with seeking help for feelings of depression, anxiety, anger or loss.

The Stay Well counseling line is staffed with crisis counselors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can access the line by dialing Michigan’s COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 and pressing “8” at the prompt.

“Many of us are having a hard time right now,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon in a press release. “There should be zero shame and zero stigma – just honesty that can help each of us find our own inner strength. ‘Be Kind to Your Mind’ says you can talk about the strain from COVID with trained counselors who are available for free if you call 888-535-6136 and press 8, or visit Michigan.gov/StayWell.”

According to a recent online survey of 99,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than one-third of American adults report symptoms of depressive and/or anxiety disorder—triple the rate reported in 2019. Another survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in June found more than one in 10 U.S. adults had considered suicide in the past 30 days. That rate was more than double what was reported in 2019.

“Stay Well counselors help people understand their feelings and reactions during a disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic,” said psychiatrist Dr. Debra Pinals, MDHHS’ medical director for behavioral health. “While they are not licensed mental health professionals, they have undergone training provided by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on how to help people mentally rebound from disasters.

Stay Well counselors are taught to listen, not judge, and help callers develop coping strategies, review their options and connect with agencies that may help them. All of this can reduce callers’ stress and improve their ability to endure the realities they face, she said.

According to a report prepared by the Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration grant team, callers to the Stay Well line are experiencing a range of emotions. They are anxious about contracting the coronavirus, having a loved one contract the virus and keeping their children and/or parents safe. They are discouraged about continued unemployment, worried about going back to work in an unsafe environment, and lonely due to lack of social interaction.

Language translation is available for non-English-speaking residents who call the counseling line.