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Program provides support services to those dealing with challenges related to COVID-19

By Robert Kley

More than one-third of New Jersey adults surveyed by the National Center for Health Statistics and Census Bureau from April 23 through July 21 (Phase 1) and Aug. 19 through Oct. 26 (Phase 2) reported symptoms of anxiety or depression resulting from COVID-19 related issues.

With the pandemic showing no signs of abating and a fear of a drastic rise in cases this fall into winter, these figures are sure to increase.

On the heels of a difficult election that has generated significant apprehension and taken an emotional toll on many New Jerseyans, along with seasonal affective disorder that can be caused from the end of Daylight Saving Time, access to mental health resources is more important than ever.

As professionals in behavioral health, we at the Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) know all too well that emotional difficulties resulting from this crisis may cause distress.

For some, this may lead to poor decision-making, which in turn can cause people more serious emotional issues or result in the overuse of alcohol and drugs.

This is a crisis unlike anything we have ever seen before, and by working with the New Jersey State Department of Human Services, the people of New Jersey have resources available to help them get through this unprecedented time.

To assist residents in navigating emotional issues related to COVID-19, the MHANJ is providing support services through the New Jersey Hope and Healing Crisis Counseling Program.

Residents can reach trained staff through a variety of free and confidential services offered through the NJ MentalHealthCares Help Line by calling 866-202-HELP (4357) or texting NJHOPE to 51684 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

The MHANJ team can provide emotional support via phone or chat, including a referral to a specific program or crisis counselor. Through the texting service, people may also opt in for comforting and nurturing care messages delivered via mobile phone to help them cope with emotional stress on a longer-term, ongoing basis.

In addition to the helpline and texting services, residents also have access to crisis counseling and virtual support groups.

The MHANJ is offering a variety of support groups, including sessions for teachers, parents, seniors, healthcare workers and teenagers. The full schedule of groups can be found at https://www.mhanj.org/njhope/

The NJ MentalHealthCares call line and texting services are equipped to serve Spanish-speaking residents of New Jersey. The MHANJ also offers virtual support groups for the Spanish-speaking community.

The mission of the New Jersey Hope and Healing Crisis Counseling Program, which was established by the New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, is to assist individuals and communities in recovering from the effects of disasters through the provision of community-based outreach and psycho-educational services.

The program supports short-term interventions that involve the counseling goals of assisting affected individuals in understanding their current situation and reactions, mitigating stress, assisting in reviewing their recovery options, promoting the use or development of coping strategies, providing emotional support, and encouraging linkages with other individuals and agencies who may help in their recovery process.

These services are provided free of charge through the New Jersey Hope and Healing Crisis Counseling program.

The Mental Health Association in New Jersey in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services is offering the Crisis Counseling Program through a FEMA/SAMHSA grant.

For more information about available online virtual support groups and to stay connected, visit www.mhanj.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Robert Kley is the chief operating officer of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey.

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