“I’m afraid,” said one caller.

“I’m depressed,” said another.

“I’m lonely,” said one more.

Many of the teens, young adults and parents who contact the Children’s Home Society of Florida’s helpline ask counselors to confirm whether such statements are signs of mental health issues. Some then ask whether they should seek professional help.

With stress, anxiety, and depression on the rise amid the coronavirus pandemic, the intention of the free 24-hour helpline has extended beyond offering support to those with coronavirus-related problems.

The helpline was launched two months into the pandemic to help children who struggled to cope with the sudden separation from teachers and friends, or parents facing economic hardships.

But counselors found that several of those who contacted the helpline over the past few months faced a range of problems that were not connected to the pandemic. Some calls came from LGBTQ+ teens who were scared to come out to their parents. Other calls were from young adults who were unsure of how to set boundaries with controlling partners.

As the pandemic has stretched on, the number of calls to the hotline has climbed higher and higher. Counselors took 54 calls in May; 184 in June; 552 in July; and 598 in August.

“What has surprised me is the response to the Warm Line,” said Julie Taylor, a licensed clinical program manager for the Children’s Home Society of Florida. “I guess we didn’t expect that this many people would actually feel comfortable calling the Warm Line.”

She takes calls from people who are up during her 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. Some of them have not escaped the troubles that came with the pandemic. Parents are nervous about their children returning to school, and young adults fear what the future may hold.

Young adults, Taylor said, made a lot of the calls to the helpl.

“The young adults are launching at a time when there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Taylor said. “They’re learning to navigate a world that’s very different than they expected.”

The helpline has helped address the serious need for counseling in the area since its inception, Taylor said. She hopes the resource will remain available even after the pandemic is contained.

“We would love to keep this as a permanent resource to the community because we see the value in this ‘warmline’ and the ability for families and individuals to call us and have that person to speak to right away,” she said.

People who need support amid the pandemic can call or text the helpline at 888-733-6303 to speak with a counselor. 

Originally posted by: The Daytona Beach News-Journal