The COVID-19 pandemic created stress in the lives of many over the past year. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services offers a new option to help those on the front lines of the pandemic.

Tennessee’s Emotional Support Line for Pandemic Stress “is adding a new method for people to reach out for help,” a news release said.

The free and confidential line now has the capability to offer assistance via text message.

Tennessee health care workers, first responders and anyone working in education who may be experiencing stress, anxiety, sadness, or depression related to work can now call or text the Emotional Support Line at 888-642-7886 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Specially trained mental health professionals who answer calls or respond to texts through the line “can provide emotional support through active listening, help identify and address basic needs, and reference tools for managing stress and making a plan for self-care,” the news release said.

The support line was created in May 2020 as a resource for health care workers and first responders. In December, the line was expanded to offer services to any Tennessean working in education.

“Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression at double the rate we’d expect in normal times, and we know this crisis has been much harder on our essential workers. We’re hopeful that this new text message capability will remove some of the stigma of asking for help and encourage more people to reach out,” Marie Williams, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said in the release.

Penny Schwinn, Tennessee education commissioner, said district and school leaders, staff, and educators “continue to face significant challenges due to COVID-19, and this new feature provides the opportunity for easier access to much-needed mental health resources.”

“We are grateful to our state partners for continuing this critical support and providing additional access to free and confidential mental health services for our front line workers, including the classroom heroes who are educating our children,” Schwinn said.

Cathryn Yarbrough, a Mental Health Active Response Team member, was one of the first to staff the MHART Emotional Support Line.

“’Unprecedented’ is a word that’s overused these days, but it really fits for the kinds of stresses confronting us during the pandemic,” Yarbrough said.

“I was struck by how challenging it is to face things never faced before in this generation. I also was encouraged to see how people often only needed that brief telephone contact to center themselves and identify a way forward. The addition of text capacity will make this valuable service even easier for those in need of immediate support,” Yarbrough said.

For more information on the Emotional Support Line for Pandemic Stress, visit TN.gov/behavioral-health/emotional-support

Recommended for you