Feeling isolated, lonely or stressed? Washington Listens is here to help you through quarantine

Aug 25, 2020, 5:33 PM | Updated: Aug 26, 2020, 5:39 am
Washington Listens...
(Photo by Mike Meyers on Unsplash)
(Photo by Mike Meyers on Unsplash)

In response to the isolation, loneliness, uncertainty and stress many are experiencing during quarantine, the state launched Washington Listens, an anonymous phone line people can call to get emotional support and coping strategies.

“Folks have heard of crisis lines, but this program is not a crisis line,” said Keri Waterland, director of the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery at Washington State Health Care Authority. “This is a program that really compliments the state’s behavioral health response by providing an outlet for folks who aren’t in crisis to seek out any support they may need as a result of any stress that they may be encountering given the current state of affairs due to COVID. That’s how we really got these funds through a FEMA and SAMHSA [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] grant.”

Lisa Dempsey is a phone support specialist for Washington Listens.

“People just really need to feel listened to,” Dempsey said. “I sense a lot of isolation and loneliness. We’ve had people call in about relationship issues, especially being in close quarters. It’s a lot of emotional driven calls. Isolation seems to be exasperating concerns that have already been in existence. So if you have relationship problems, if you have problems with your income, if you have problems with employment, all of that has become magnified that much more with people that are now quarantined to very confined spaces in uncomfortable situations.”

Phone support specialist Felicia Knapp says the most important thing she can do is listen.

“The common theme that runs across all of our callers is they just want to know that they’re not alone,” Knapp said. “They want to know that there are other people out there who are going through similar circumstances and are there to listen to them. So it’s really just that reassurance factor.”

State warns COVID mental health struggles could get worse before better

Knapp says listening is a gift you can give to people in your life who have come to you to vent or talk about their fears.

“It’s easy to get distracted with wanting to talk, but the value of someone else being heard overrides that,” Knapp said. “We should keep that in the back of our mind that we are able to help others if we remain open minded.”

Besides the peer support, phone support specialists can also make referrals for legal resources, housing support, and therapy if someone has longer term needs.

“We have resources for everyone, regardless of income. Socioeconomic status does not influence the services that we provide,” Knapp said.

Waterland says they’ve answered about 1,500 calls since the line went live six weeks ago, but Knapp says the phone isn’t ringing off the hook.

“It is not and that’s quite unfortunate because there just isn’t enough awareness,” Knapp said. “We have these services to offer but people are just not aware that we are there.”

The line is anonymous, free, and an attempt at being proactive. Waterland encourages people to call before their needs escalate.

“It’s an acknowledgement that, at this point in time in our lives, it’s OK to not feel OK and there is no shame in reaching out before things become a crisis,” Waterland said.

Call the Washington Listens support line at 1-833-681-0211. It is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. TTY and language access services are available by using 711 or their preferred method.

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Feeling isolated, lonely or stressed? Washington Listens is here to help you through quarantine