In a press conference on Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state is working to set up a network in which people can speak to mental health professionals about the emotional toll of the COVID-19 crisis.
He asked the professional mental health community — including psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists — to volunteer their time to get the network up and running. Sessions would be held over the phone or on over video chat, he explained. He said that if they get enough volunteers, New York state will set up a Mental Health Electronic Help Center.
Mental health is a vital part of public health.
We’re asking psychologists and therapists to pitch in and volunteer their services to help with New York’s #Coronavirus response.
To sign up, visit: https://t.co/4LJxeIdhRE
Stress and anxiety are very real.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 21, 2020
“We talk about the economic consequences, but we also need to talk about the social consequences,” he said. “But the stress, the anxiety, the emotions that are provoked by this crisis are truly significant, and people are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics.”
“They’re nervous, they’re anxious, they’re isolated. It can bring all sorts of emotions and feelings to the surface,” he continued. “When you’re isolated you don’t have people to talk to.”
On Friday, Cuomo issued an executive order telling New Yorkers to stay home unless for essential travel. Schools, businesses and religious centers — which can often function as emotional support systems — have all closed to help stem the spread of virus. A recent Reuters/Ipso poll found that 48% of Americans feel that the coronavirus is an “imminent threat” to the United State, 20 points more than in a March 2-3 poll.
According to MIT Technology Review, use of mental health apps and tele-therapy has skyrocketed since the coronavirus crisis began. While some have released their contents for free, most charge patrons for speaking with a professional. The New York state network would be free to the public, according to Cuomo.
During the same press conference, Cuomo also announced that there are now at least 10,356 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the state. He also said about 15% of those cases have needed hospitalization.
Cuomo also told the public not to listen to rumors about how the government is responding to the crisis. He urged New Yorkers to to coronavirus.health.ny.gov to submit questions to his team, which he said his team will respond to.
“Yeah, we have a problem. Yes we will will deal with it. Yes we will overcome it,” he said. “But let’s find out better selves in doing it. And let New York lead the way.”
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Contributor: Madeleine Carlisle