The Association for Mental Health and Wellness (MHAW) has increased the capacity of its Mental Health Helpline in response to the overwhelming need resulting from the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the Coronavirus began to invade our lives and restrict our lifestyles, many of us have struggled with the onslaught of frightening messages and the negative effects of social isolation,” said Michael Stoltz, LCSW, the CEO of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness. “We are seeing a fast-growing need for increased support and guidance among our existing clients and the public at-large.”
The Mental Health Helpline is available to all Suffolk County residents who need help in finding and accessing assistance for themselves, for a friend, or a family member. Helpline staff provides information and referrals to community resources for persons living with mental illness, their families, and service providers, as well as people in the general population who are experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of the recent pandemic.
“There are a growing and more sophisticated set of resources specifically addressed to those with mental health and substance use issues,” said Stoltz. “We endeavor to be an easy-to-access resource for Suffolk County citizens to connect with these services effectively.”
When a Helpline call is received, a brief assessment will be conducted with the individual caller so they can be linked to an appropriate resource. When needed, callers may be provided with additional advocacy through direct phone calls to other service providers to arrange for appropriate services. A key component of the Helpline is post-call follow-up where Helpline staff will make return calls to individuals by the next day to make sure they successfully connected with mental health services.
The Helpline, which can be accessed by phone at 631-471-7242 ext. 2, is open for calls Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Emails can be sent 24/7 and will be responded to the same day or next day. MHAW plans to expand those hours into the evening and weekend in the coming weeks. Additional COVID-19-related resources can be found on the Mental Health Helpline web page.
In addition to the Mental Health Helpline, MHAW has expanded the hours for its Peer Support Line and online Peer Support Groups. These services are staffed by trained and experienced Certified Peer Specialists who have their own lived experience with emotional distress. This telephone and online support will maximize access to those served and help to minimize the potential negative effects of social isolation during this challenging time.
This added capacity in the Mental Health Helpline is funded by existing contracts from the New York State Office of Mental Health and the Suffolk County Department of Health, Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services. “We are grateful to our government partners for stepping up quickly and helping to adapt current resources toward these much-needed community services,” added Stoltz.