Crisis lines helping Hoosiers amid coronavirus pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosiers are crying out for help amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Crisis Text Line, a global service that offers counseling via text message 24/7, saw a 116 percent increase in volume in March. Weeks into the pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders, they are now seeing a 40 percent increase compared to their “normal” amount of work.

“The first wave of texts that we got from people were really about anxiety,” Ashley Wumble, spokesperson, said. “People would text us and say, ‘I have asthma. I’m worried I’m going to get this.’ Now, it has shifted to more mental health concerns because of the quarantine themselves.”

Wumble said a lot of people are texting about feeling lonely and isolated.

“More people in Indiana are texting us about anxiety than people throughout the country,” she pointed out.

Most of the people that reached out to the Crisis Text Line identified themselves as essential workers. A majority also mentioned that their communities were in lockdown.

“We’re also seeing, unfortunately, increases of people texting us about abuse because, of course, some people are quarantined at home with their abusers,” Wumble told CBS4.

CBS4 filtered through some of the messages.

I feel trapped, almost like there is nowhere for me to go if he got violent,”one said. “I don’t want to risk exposing my kids to the virus. How can I prepare myself during this crisis should he become violent?”

“My family has lost my uncle and aunt to the virus, my spouse is also very ill and I just feel like there’s no reason to keep going,” another read.

One Hoosier, who reportedly works as a first responder, sent this:

“I’ve been a paramedic for a long time. Because of my job, I’m very in tune with the virus situation, but I feel like it’s hurting me too. I felt a panic attack coming or at least anxiety symptoms and I needed to talk to someone.”

Wumble said the Crisis Text Line is a perfect option for those who work on the front lines because they can text in private.

“You can go hopefully and take ten minutes to text a crisis counselor where it might be really difficult to get in and see a therapist,” she explained. 

It appears kids are texting for help as well. According to Wumble, 11 percent of the texters are under the age of 13.

CBS4 asked how the service works.

“You just text 741 741 just like you would text your friend or your mom,” Wumble said.

The first response will be an automated message placing you in line. Within five minutes, counselors respond and man the line. Wumble said Crisis Text Line is free of charge. Conversations typically take about 45 minutes.

“People get into it, like they get very direct and into their problem,” she said. “There’s not a lot of small talk.”

Crisis Text line is now offered in several languages.

Locally, Families First told CBS4 that they, too, have seen an uptick in calls.

“A 295 percent increase since all of this started,” David Siler, President of Families First, said. “It happened pretty quickly. The call volume spiked pretty quickly as people lost jobs and maybe had their own mental health crises.”

Siler said most people are asking for help finding financial assistance and food. Volunteers have been pointing those people in the right direction.

Locally, calls for mental health help have increased as well. Typically, Families First sees about 48 suicide calls. Since March, they say those numbers have skyrocketed to about 124 calls per month.

“That’s about a 48 percent increase,” Siler pointed out. “We’re seeing more people that were already struggling and then the added challenges of the pandemic have kind of pushed them over that edge.”

Siler wanted to remind Hoosiers that they are not alone in feeling this way.

“Sometimes, just having someone hear and empathize with what you’re going through can make all the difference in the world,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out there that can help.”

If you’re looking for someone to talk to, there are options. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their number is 1-800-273-8255. If you live in Indiana, the hotline will funnel you to one of five centers within the state.

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