The Bassett Healthcare Network has launched a new hotline to help people who are dealing with stress from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Emotional Support Line, 607-322-0157, is open 24/7 and is free to anyone within the network's nine-county coverage area, which includes Chenango, Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties.
"I hope people will see us as a resource to alleviate some of their stress, in whatever capacity it is," said Ann Marie Mills, a licensed clinical social worker and the team leader of the new hotline effort.
"Stress over time can have a cumulative effect," Mills said. "People tend to minimize their stress because someone else's stress may be more than theirs."
The hotline will not only give people a professional to turn to with their mental health issues, she said, but also a helping hand to find other resources available in the region, including help with causes of stress, such as unemployment, bills and food insecurity.
"We are able to call people back and get them other resources," Mills said.
The hotline is staffed by nine professionals, Mills said, most of whom are clinical health workers. It is a direct line, she said.
"Somebody is always available," Mills said.
Mills said her team is normally spread out over Bassett's coverage area, which covers about 56,500 square miles, and is working in schools, as well as the network's clinics and hospitals. However, with in-school learning in New York shut down until at least September, the team has more time to devote to helping improve the emotional health of all of the area's citizens, she said.
"We thought we really could use our experience and we really have a broad base of resources we can reach into to get people relief," she said.
Mills said one positive about the pandemic is people may be realizing that mental health is not a taboo issue and it is OK to seek help, or even just a sympathetic ear that isn't a friend or family member.
"One thing that has been a breath of fresh air, as mental health providers is ... people are talking about mental health in a different way," she said. "We really see that as a positive thing, helping people understand that mental health is just a part of overall health."
Mills also said she and the network want people to know that they are stronger than the pandemic and the problems it has caused.
"We will get through it," she said, "but we have to be thoughtful and really kind to each other."
Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar .com or 607-441-7218.