Help When it’s Needed Most: The National Disaster Distress Hotline
Barbara, a restaurant worker who was feeling extreme stress and anxiety for her family due to the COVID-19 pandemic, recently reached out for support to the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH), administered by Vibrant. She shared that she is especially worried for her young children and was longing for safer times. In addition to the safety implications of working in a restaurant, the added stress of finding balance between spending time at work and spending time with her children was weighing on her.
The DDH counselor worked with Barbara to help validate and normalize these feelings by sharing how dealing with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 affects us all. She also helped her talk through the possibility of homeschooling to keep her children safe, and the implications that would put on her own life. Finally, the counselor provided her with new coping strategies and directed her to resources for guided meditation to help her deal with the daily stress and anxiety she was feeling. Through active listening, empathy, and appropriate resources, our counselor ensured that she had the tools she needed to move forward.
Barbara is one of many callers in distress who has reached out to the DDH since the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a public health crisis, creating widespread concern, anxiety, and uncertainty across the country. Vibrant’s DDH has been on the front lines of this mental health emergency, providing crisis support services to people who are experiencing emotional distress or other behavioral health concerns related to the pandemic.
Staffed by trained counselors from a network of crisis call centers across the United States, the DDH provides counseling and support before, during, and after disasters by sharing information on how to recognize distress and its effects on individuals and families, tips for healthy coping, and referrals to local resources for follow-up care and support. Since its launch in February 2012, the DDH has provided support in response to disasters such as the Pulse Nightclub and Las Vegas shootings; Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria; major wildfires in California; and now the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since March 2020, the DDH has seen an unprecedented increase in call and text volume associated with the COVID-19 crisis, showing a 335% increase over the past five months. Throughout the course of the pandemic, we’ve responded to the fear and anxiety being felt across the nation due to the unknown nature of the virus, the rapid escalation in positive diagnoses, and the financial implications of the economic shutdown. We are also helping people who are experiencing an increase in anxiety and depression from the longer-term effects of social distancing. These can include the inability to see their support network in-person, the loss of milestone events like graduations and weddings, and the loss of connections through school and work.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and other disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or wildfires hit, the DDH will be there to ensure anyone, anywhere in the country has the support and tools they need on their path of recovery. If you or someone you know is in need of these services, please call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. For more information about the DDH and to read more stories of hope and strength during recovery from survivors and responders, visit https://strengthafterdisaster.org.