Gulfport Behavioral Health System opens Stress and Anxiety Hotline during COVID-19 pandemic

Call 228-236-2236. Help is available 24/7.
COVID-19 is creating a lot of mental health stress. For those who are feeling closed-in, anxious or stressed, mental health professionals are sharing advice.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2020 at 10:05 AM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - If you are feeling overwhelmed with Stress and Anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic or in general, you can now call Gulfport Behavioral Health System’s Stress and Anxiety Hotline at 228-236-2236.

The new hotline opened Friday morning, and is currently the only local hotline of its type on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It’s set to operate 24/7 through the COVID-19 pandemic and is designed to assist the community with tips, tricks, techniques and resources to help them alleviate the stress and anxiety generated from the pandemic and resulting changes in normalcy many people are experiencing.

“Try to help people to remember that no matter what the situation, we have strengths to pull from and if you can focus more on those strengths instead of the deficits and the negatives, then a lot of times things just start to turn around,” said Kay Daneault with the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi.

Keeping up with your physical health can have a great impact on your mental health as well.

“Maintain proper diet. Usually, when we are under a significant amount of stress, we don’t take care of ourselves, we don’t eat properly, so being able to eat like we should, eat a balanced meal, at least three balanced meals a day would be excellent,” said Dr. Michael Hall of Gulfport Behavioral Health. “The other thing we can do is make sure we get plenty of exercise. Exercise has been proven to be a great stress reducer.”

Ultimately, it’s important to remember this is a temporary situation.

“I think just trying to remember that we’re going to come through this,” Daneault said. “Things will be a little different, but the core of our existence is still the same, so try not to panic and try to keep those positive thoughts and keeping yourself busy is good.”

Speaking of keeping yourself busy, getting your mind off of yourself during these trying times could help more than just you.

“If you can think of a way to help someone else and brighten their day, not only does it help them, but it makes us feel good,” Daneault said

Another piece of advice is to not get overwhelmed with the news. Find a good balance of keeping yourself informed without becoming saturated with negativity, either on TV or in social media.

Technology, however, can be a key to helping.

The Mental Health Association of South Mississippi is launching an effort on Facebook to offer some help.

It will be a virtual group session, not therapy, and it will be open to the public.

The program will create the opportunity to talk to other people, share ideas about how to cope with the stress of coronavirus.

“We’ll probably post some questions out to the group, whoever joins us and see whatever conversation comes out of it” said Daneault. “I think we learn from each other and other people’s experiences because we’re all so unique which I think can be a really beautiful thing.”

You can find the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi page on facebook to get details on the program that they hope to launch on Monday.

Another insertion of technology is the many mental health providers in South Mississippi switching to telehealth in order to reduce the spread of coronovirus.

If you are currently seeing someone, and want to stay at home, it is important to stay in touch.

“Reach out to their therapist, their outpatient provider, most of those are offering services via telemed, via phone call, via facetime,” said Cliff Hermes of Oceans Behavioral Health in Biloxi.

If you don’t currently have a mental health provider and feel you need some help, many businesses are expanding their employee assistance programs or you can go to to find a provider. The web site is still under development and encourages providers to contact them to be added.

Just because we have been advised to stay away physically, doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch with friends and family.

“Maintain contact with others,” said Hall. “During this time of social isolation, we can use other means and methods of communication like Facebook, like Facetime.”

Daneault suggested a low-tech way to lift someone’s spirits.

"If you just hand write a little short note to someone and pop it in the mail box for the mailman to take. They get that, it could just completely change their day. "

And she reminded that just because somebody needs to talk, doesn’t mean they expect you to solve their problems. Most times, she said. people just need somebody to listen.

Again, anyone feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and or stress can call the hotline at 228-236-2236 and speak to a Masters trained social worker or therapist regarding their situation.

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