LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- For the last year, people worldwide have used masks to protect their physical health from COVID-19. But therapists say addressing mental health is just as important.
So an Indiana state agency created a free help line, connecting people in crisis to mental health counselors.
One of those there to help if Lifespring Healthy Systems, which provides mental health and primary care services in southern Indiana for children and adults.
"We see individuals regardless of their ability to pay," said Dr. Beth Keeney, president and CEO of LifeSpring Health Systems. "We have seen an increase in the number of people seeking treatment for depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorder treatment. Some of that has been related to concern and anxiety from the pandemic. We've also seen people coming to treatment because of their concerns about the pandemic. So ... if you're concerned about behavioral health or substance abuse issues, please reach out and get help. There is treatment available."
Keeney said, treatment should be available to everyone, including people with limited financial resources.
"One of the things that I don't want to leave unsaid is that we do have a lot of underrepresented populations in our communities who don't seek health care for a variety of reasons," Keeney said. "So please come in and access health care. We aren't doing enough to make sure that health care is equitably accessed in all of our communities, and we want to make sure that everyone accesses health care when they need it."
That's why The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration created the Be Well Crisis Helpline. The service is for Hoosiers in crisis. They can simply call 211 to be connected to a mental health professional.
"As a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we launched the help line in July of 2020," said Kelsi Linville, director of crisis services for the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction.
Linville helped launch the help line and said more than 25,000 people have called in to talk to counselors. This week, the state announced a federal grant is extending the helpline through March 2023.
"So what that tells us is people are hurting," Linville said. "People are needing someone to talk to, needing additional resources."
And it's not just people in Indiana who need help. According to a recent report by the Lancet Medical Group, incidents of Major Depressive Disorder are up 27% due to the pandemic. That's an estimated 53 million additional cases. Anxiety Disorder is up 25%, which is an estimated 76 million additional cases.
"Whenever someone calls into the help line, they get a person on the other end of the line who can listen with compassion and without judgment," Linville said. "Sometimes, just having that person to listen is enough. Sometimes, the caller might need more. Maybe they need additional resources or need to be connected with formal treatment. And our crisis counselors are able to provide referrals and let people know resources in their area to meet some of those other needs."
"We do receive referrals from the Be Well Hotline, and we do refer people to the Be Well Hotline when they happen to be outside of our area," Keeney added. "So mental health and substance use treatment absolutely can be lifesaving, just like CPR and other sorts of first aid treatment."
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