‘Pandemic within a pandemic’: Mental health issues surge during pandemic in Houston area

HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department’s new hotline to address mental health issues during the pandemic has received hundreds of calls since launching in October.

“People are under a great deal of stress and pressure,” said Dr. Janice Beal, program director for the Let’s Beat COVID-19 helpline.

Counselors have taken more than 800 calls since October and are now averaging around 30 to 40 a day, she said.

“They are calling with all types of issues and it’s a concern that when you have no way out, or you don’t see no way out, that’s when people are reaching out for help right now,” Beal said.

The holiday season is upon us but months into the pandemic, not everyone is celebrating.

The Harris Center for Mental Health has a special telephone line dedicated to COVID-19-related mental health issues. Jennifer Battle, director of access, said the center’s call volume has increased slightly in the last few months.

“We’re definitely talking to more people who are feeling worse,” Battle said. “We think that people may have put off seeking regular mental health care towards the beginning of the pandemic and have been trying to take care of themselves on their own independently, maybe at home, and are now getting to the point where they need professional care.”

Battle said people can stay connected virtually throughout the holiday season to get through challenging times but if that’s not enough, call for help.

The Harris Center for Mental Health:

COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line: 1-833-986-1919

The Harris Center Crisis Line: 713-970-7000, Option #1

Houston Health Department:

Let’s Beat COVID helpline: 713-999-9442. The helpline is open seven days a week, 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. through Dec. 24.