Crisis hotline centers see increase in calls during March

Posted at 5:32 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 19:31:20-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — State crisis call centers saw an increase of more than 20-percent in March over last year of people calling in distress.

According to the commissioner of TN Department of Mental Health, Marie Williams, in March of 2020, there were 822 calls into crisis centers. This year, there were 1,035.

Data for April is not yet available. Williams said she believes the numbers are caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

"The longer things go on, the more hopeless it can feel," said Williams. "If there's anything that we want to make sure people know, there is hope, there is an ability to get help. Please reach out."

Crisis workers are still answering phones from home during the shutdown. Williams said it's good people are calling in if they're feeling distressed or thinking about self harm.

"Right now, anything you're feeling please be kind and understanding with yourself and understand it's totally normal to not be feeling okay right now. The next step is, reach out and talk to someone," she said.

Other groups, such as Centerstone, are still receiving calls as well. Becky Stoll, Vice President of Crisis and Disaster Management, said while their numbers of calls for suicidal thoughts haven't increased, the resources for disaster help have gone up 400 percent or more since the COVID-19 crisis started. Though, she added the call volume to that line was only about 40-60 a month before coronavirus.

"This situation is so unique and odd," said Stoll. "Because, normally, take the tornadoes for example. The tornado hits it leaves it path of destruction. We kind of get operational we chainsaw trees and then we can look at what people need, how much we can do to move into the phase of recovery. This one has a really big question mark on when it's going to end."

Stoll also said she worries there are people who are distressed in the community who are unfamiliar with what services are available to people. She fears there may be many who are not seeking help.

"There are probably unprecedented levels of people who have never had to access mental health services and I'm sure for them this feels pretty wonky and they don't know where to turn," she said.

If you or someone you know needs help you can reach the hotline here: 855-274-7471