Valley Counselors and Peer Mental Health Advocates Launch Anxiety Help Line

Apr 16, 2020

A group of valley counselors and peer mental health advocates have launched a new mental health service designed to help during COVID-19. The Shenandoah Valley Emotional Support Line, staffed by volunteer mental health professionals, is now available to valley residents in need of non-emergency emotional help.

Shenandoah Valley Emotional Support Line - (540) 820-5762

There is currently a need for more spanish speaking volunteer therapists, if interested, email infoSEVESL@gmail.com.

Press Release - Issued Thursday April 16, 2020

Local counselors and peer advocates team up to launch COVID-19 Emotional Support Line

HARRISONBURG, VA – Local counselors and peer mental health advocates announced the launch of a new mental health service during COVID-19, the Shenandoah Valley Emotional Support Line. Staffed by volunteer mental health professionals, including licensed counselors and residents, Valley residents in need of non-emergency emotional help can now call to receive anxiety-reduction tools, referrals to local mental health providers, and compassionate listening. 

The service is free, confidential, and available in English and Spanish three nights a week. Residents may call 540-820-5762 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7 to 10 p.m. for English and 7 to 8 p.m. for Spanish.

“As a therapist, I saw a need for additional mental health support during this time. The Emotional Support Line is an accessible way to increase our sense of connection in these uncharted waters,” said April Hepler, a licensed professional counselor and Executive Director of Adagio House

Looking for ways to support her community during the pandemic, Hepler joined the Facebook group Harrisonburg VA services in times of need. It was here where she accepted a call for volunteers to start a COVID-19 hotline, similar to one that recently launched in New York City.

Suzi Martinez Carter, a local project consultant and the line’s co-founder, soon jumped on board to help, feeling called for personal reasons. “I lost my mother early in life, in part, because of a lack of economic and mental health support,” Martinez Carter said. “While this line is not a crisis hotline, we do hope it can fill in a gap—between crisis services and ongoing therapy. We hope to support anyone who may be experiencing increased anxiety, depressive symptoms, or is just having a hard day and could use someone to talk to."

Maressa Cortes, Bridgewater native and co-founder of Las Traumadas, a local media project on emotional intelligence, agreed. “Many of us are experiencing huge shifts in our day-to-day lives due to the global crisis. This takes a physical and emotional toll on each of us,” said Cortes. Also the line's volunteer coordinator, Cortes, added, “It’s important to have the resources you need to get through those changes.” Organizers encourage anyone to call to receive helpful tools, tailored recommendations for local resources, and a trained, compassionate person to listen to you.

Mimicking the pandemic’s speed, in less than two weeks, Hepler and fellow organizers developed a plan, recruited volunteers, secured a phone number and Facebook page, and launched the line. "With the landscape changing so fast, we're grateful for our steady organizational partner Adagio House and for the dedicated mental health professionals who are making this service possible,” noted Martinez Carter. Together, they also compiled a list of available mental health resources for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents.

The next steps for the temporary project include expanding the support line’s Spanish-language hours to match the support it provides in English. To reach this parity, Cortes said they are hoping to recruit seven more Spanish-speaking therapists, each volunteering one hour per week. Organizers are also continuing to get the word out. On Monday, organizers of the Shenandoah Valley Emotional Support Line launched a Facebook page by the same name. “We hope that the more people who find out about the support line, the more useful it can be,” shared Cortes.

If you are wondering if you should call the Emotional Support Line, Hepler says, “Please do. Feeling a range of difficult emotions during this stressful time is entirely normal. What we don’t want to be normal is having to go through it alone. No matter how big or small, a counselor is ready to talk with you.”

For more information or if you are interested in volunteering as a counselor, or as an administrative or creative services support, please email infoSEVESL@gmail.com or leave a voicemail at 540-820-5762 before 7 p.m.

 

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Shenandoah Valley Emotional Support Line is a collaborative project of Adagio House, members of Las Traumadas, local counselors, and community organizers in response to an increased need for mental health support during the COVID-19 pandemic.