Mental health hotline ready to help with stress related to holidays, pandemic

Calls to Houston's COVID-19 mental health hotline from people having thoughts of suicide are on the rise.

Dr. Janice Beal, Program Administrator for Houston's Let’s Beat COVID-19: Health, Education, and Support Services says in the last two weeks, the hotline is getting 2 to 3 calls about suicidal thoughts.


She says she would usually see 1 to 2 a week. "Holidays, automatically, [are] not a good time for a lot of people. So, all of that combined with what we're experiencing right now seems to be the reason for these type of calls," Beal said.

RELATED: Health Department teaming up with Houston Mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee supporting mental health during pandemic

She adds the hotline usually receives 20 to 30 calls a day. While the volume of calls has remained steady since the hotline launched, counselors are spending 1.5 to 3 hours with each caller. The calls are more serious.

In late June, a survey by the CDC showed 11 percent of U.S. adults seriously considered suicide.

"There's a lot of sadness as a result of not being able to spend time with family members," Beal noted.

Other worries, she says, include whether or not food will be on the table, who is or is not at the table, and what will happen to those who do attend a gathering.

Beal advises people to plan a virtual gathering or postpone the in-person dinner.
"People have to understand that love doesn't just mean just one dinner, one day. We love people all the time," she said.

She says anyone needing mental health support does not have to suffer in silence.
"We will help you. I cannot say that more sincerely than how I'm saying it right now. We will not let any call go unanswered," Beal said.

Let’s Beat COVID-19: Health, Education, and Support Program also offers workshops on mental wellness including how to cope with holiday stress.

The workshops are every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in English and 7:30 p.m. in Spanish.

The mental health hotline is (713) 999-9442. It is available from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. 7 days a week. Spanish-speaking counselors are available.