LifeStream offers virus stress hotline

The coronavirus pandemic is different than other crises because it effects all of us.

Regardless of our age, financial status or religion, it has profoundly changed our lives. In a single day government shutdown orders closed restaurants, public gatherings, schools and visits with friends and families.

Employers have shuttered doors and handed many workers pink slips until the economy turns around. Meanwhile, mortgages and rent payments are due and utility companies continue to send out their bills.

Many become ever more stressed over the constant media flow of bad news, infection rates and death tolls.

LifeStream Behavorial Center, which provides mental health and drug addiction services to Citrus County, is offering county residents a coronavirus hotline, manned 24 hours a day, where residents can speak with counselors about stresses, anxieties and fears stemming from the virus that has claimed nearly 45,000 victims in this country alone.  

“We’ve recognized the stresses the coronavirus has put on families,” said Lisa Woolston, associate vice president of Citrus County services for LifeStream. “We saw the need.”

To help staff the coronavirus help line, LifeStream is utilizing some of its counselors from its mobile response team and will continue the hot line until the pandemic is over or until there’s not enough of a need for it, said Sherry Olszanski, vice president of development and marketing.

LifeStream began the help line earlier this month. At the start, the service typically received less than half a dozen telephone calls a day asking for help. Counselors often now see twice that number daily.

 “It’s mostly calls about anxiety and stress (regarding coronavirus),” she told the Chronicle. “And fear of the unknown; fear of going out (and being infected).”

Sometimes people call because their friends or neighbors are having mental health problems associated with stresses due to how the virus is effecting their lives, she said.

People often call because they’re depressed because maybe they’ve lost their job and need help. They call asking about food banks or getting tested for the virus, Olszanski said.

Along with offering mental health counseling, counselors can also help people find local information about foodbanks, testing and information for the homeless.

Counselors are also getting an increase in telephone calls from parents asking for help coping with children at home and not leaving for school.

After talking about their problems, Olszanski said some callers just want to chat with the staff and that’s OK.

“They just need someone to talk to,” she said, but people are still adjusting to “this whole new world we’re living in.”

Call the coronavirus helpline at 352-408-6625.

LifeStream also wants people to remember that its Citrus Access Center is also still open for counseling at 6 Regina Blvd., Beverly Hills. That facility’s number is 352-270-8236.

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