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Stress from the stay-at-home order, growing fears of the unknown about one’s livelihood or life itself — those are just some of the reasons the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on the emotional well-being of countless Michiganders. For that reason, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is promoting several easy-to-access resources that are designed to assist those in distress, which are all part of the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Well” initiative. And while these resources aren’t LGBTQ-specific, they are suitable for anyone dealing with mental health concerns as a result of, or exacerbated by, the pandemic and have staff trained to point individuals to other, more appropriate options if needed. Information about one such resource, the Transgender Michigan helpline, can be found here.
Warmlines, in contrast to psychiatric hotlines, are designed to provide early intervention with peer specialists and avoid severe emotional distress that can lead to tragic outcomes. Individuals are connected with certified peer support specialists who have lived experiences of behavioral health issues, trauma or personal crises, and are trained to support and empower the callers. Dr. Debra Pinals, psychiatrist and MDHHS medical director for behavioral health, explained that the warmline is meant for people with mental health issues that pre-date the pandemic, such as depression, anxiety or a substance use disorder.
“The peers do what’s called active listening for the most part in terms of their calls, where they would just talk to the person about what’s going on for them and how that’s a challenge,” Pinals said. “In [a] scenario where they’re saying they haven’t seen their therapist they might direct them to resources to help them access more support and care.”
Because of their lived experience, the peer professionals are trained to help others on their journeys of recovery from mental health and substance use conditions, Pinals explained. They are able to identify what type of response is needed in any given situation, be that support, help with wellness and coping skills or finding additional resources. And if a real crisis emerges where the person expresses suicidal thinking or other serious mental health concerns, they would then be referred to other call centers that handle crisis calls.
Since the warmline was rolled out April 13, well over 2,000 Michiganders have received assistance. It operates seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. at 888-PEER-753 (888-733-7753).
Crisis Text Line
To accommodate those who prefer to communicate via text for privacy or for any reason, Michigan residents are now able to have a confidential conversation with a crisis counselor by texting the keyword RESTORE to 741741. The text line is provided by Crisis Text Line, an organization established in 2013 that provides this type of support worldwide.
Trained counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to texts from Michigan residents who are facing a mental health crisis — everything from anxiety and financial issues to suicide and domestic violence. While the text line is starting during the pandemic, MDHHS intends to continue offering the service in the future.
“We on the back end are able to understand the types of texts that are coming through from people in Michigan in terms of level of distress and information that they’re seeking,” Pinals said. “The crisis text responder…will both be able to link them to national databases including databases in Michigan to show them where there’s resources as well as help provide us at the state information about the nature of the texts that are coming through, in a global sense.” None of the personal information is identifiable, she emphasized; it only serves to identify broad trends to better understand the needs of residents of the state.
Headspace is a global leader in mindfulness and meditation; many know of it as the first meditation app and available by paid subscription. Now, Michigan has partnered with Headspace to give residents free access to a curated selection of evidence-based guided meditations along with at-home workouts that guide people through mindful exercises. Sleep and kids’ content is available, too.
“The app emphasizes these mindfulness exercises and helps people walk through guided meditation-like thinking, shorter or longer, Pinals said. “There’s exercises you can do in the morning and exercises you can do at night…to help you sleep. There is data that looks at mindfulness as a way of helping people relax, helping people deal with some anxiety symptoms, and this Headspace kind of operationalizes exercises to help people utilize mindfulness.”
Problem Gambling Help
Due to social distancing protocols, casinos are temporarily shuttered. And with decreased access to gambling, stress and anxiety can increase the urge to gamble for someone who struggles with a gambling addiction. Because the lottery, online gaming and sports betting remain concerns, those who head up the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline want community members to know there is always help for anyone trying to manage urges to gamble.
Trained and experienced counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by phone or virtually to provide immediate help to address issues related to gambling disorder, including screening services and referrals to treatment or support groups. Call 800-270-7117 for crisis intervention and referral to treatment.
If you are thinking of taking your life, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255, or text TALK to 741741. For more information visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, a video relay service is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 (TTY 1-800-799-4889)
The National Disaster Distress Helpline is intended for those experiencing emotional distress due to COVID-19-related issues. Individuals may call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-985-5950 or text the keyword TALKWITHUS to 66746.
For those seeking mental health assistance in their own communities, dial 211 or visit the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan directory at cmham.org/membership/cmhsp-directory/. All of the above Stay Home, Stay Well resources can be found here.
Read this recent interview with local LGBTQ mental health professional Dr. Joe Kort about maintaining emotional health while social distancing.