NCDHHS Announces Hope4NC Helpline to Provide Mental Health Support
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is promoting its Hope4NC helpline, a 24-hour helpline that offers free mental health support through call, text or chat to anyone in the state.
The helpline connects individuals to various mental health services, including referrals to therapists, substance use services and community resources. It also provides Spanish-language assistance and options for individuals without insurance.
The helpline first began after Hurricane Florence to provide crisis counseling for North Carolina residents. Since April 2020, it has been been used for support during the pandemic.
In a Feb. 15 press release, NCDHHS cited the pandemic's impact on the mental health and wellness of the community. The Hope4NC helpline is listed on the department's COVID-19 wellness resources webpage.
'Adjustment to a new daily life'
Deepa Avula, director of the NCDHHS Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services division, spoke about the effect of the pandemic on mental health during a hearing of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. Avula cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that in June 2020, around 40 percent of Americans reported adverse mental health symptoms.
"For many Americans, adjustment to a new daily life was stressful but doable," Avula said during her testimony. "But, for millions of Americans, this drastic change in life was simply too much."
In recent months, demand for therapy services has increased in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, said Ruth Bard, a licensed psychologist in the area.
Bard said she had received a phone call from someone trying to find a therapist who had already called over 20 other therapists to no avail.
“I think going through a pandemic because all of the uncertainty about when things are going to get better and the rollercoaster of the different variants," Bard said. "... that rollercoaster of not knowing when are things are going to get better creates a lot of anxiety and a lot of uncertainty."
Angela Annas, a private psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker at Duke University Medical Center, also said there has been an uptick in demand for mental health resources throughout the pandemic.
"For obvious reasons, I think all of us can withstand a certain amount of stress, and once we’re over that amount, we feel like we need help," Annas said.
'A role to play in connecting people'
According to the NCDHHS press release, the Hope4NC helpline will connect underserved communities with mental health resources, and also aims to provide services for historically underrepresented communities.
Localized helplines are especially beneficial for finding North Carolina-specific services, Annas said.
“I think they definitely have a role to play in connecting people, especially people who are marginalized or don't have insurance," she said.
Avula said individuals calling Hope4NC can expect to immediately talk to a trained crisis counselor who will evaluate their needs. The counselor will then either provide direct support or will connect them to the resources they need.
“It really is sort of a customized call based on the root of the individual's calling,” Avula said. “It is a dialogue that's intended to assist a person struggling with any type of mental health problem.”
NCDHHS has created informational videos to spread the word about the helpline and encourage residents to use it.
Avula emphasized the importance of reaching out for help as the first step to recovery.
“There is no shame in reaching out for help," she said. "It really is a sign of strength to do that."
The Hope4NC helpline can be accessed at 1-855-587-3463 for call, text or chat support. The helpline runs 24/7, and its services are free and confidential.