COVID-19 fears take a toll on mental health in Central Texas

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(KWTX) The threat of COVID-19 has created additional stress as area residents deal with shelter in place orders, business closures, job loss and fears of catching the potentially deadly new coronavirus.

Business closures, layoffs, shelter in place orders and the very real threat of the potentially deadly new coronavirus are taking a toll on the mental health of Central Texas residents. (File)

Heart of Texas MHMR, the regional mental health agency, has seen an increase in demand for its services.

"MHMR folks here in our county have had a 20% increase in hospital admissions," McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said.

"This will no doubt continue to grow as long as we are in the model we are right now.”

MHMR says that this increase is partially a result of delays in seeking help.

County leaders say this is concerning as they look at the number of hospital beds available.

"We want to try to prevent our mental health populations from moving into our emergency rooms," says Felton.

"Those are precious spaces we have to protect if we can," he says.

One way local officials think they can help is by encouraging social connection even as residents shelter in place.

"I am going to stop using the term social distancing because what we need is physical distancing, not social distancing," Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said.

"It's important that we stay connected with each other because you need to hear from your friends and your family," he said.

MHMR has a hotline for residents in distress.

The number is 1-866-752-3451.

The Salvation Army has a hotline, too.

"It gives us immediate access to anybody in the nation who needs that support," says Lt. Chantel Millin, with the Salvation Army in Bell County.

The number is (844) 458-HOPE (4673).

"We have trained officers and staff members who can take those phone calls," Millin said.

The Disaster Distress Helpline, at 1-800-985-5990, also provides immediate crisis counseling to people affected by the pandemic

Texas Health and Human Services has launched a 24/7 statewide mental health support line, as well.

The toll free Mental Health Support Line is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 833-986-1919.