SAMHSA Launches 24/7 Disaster Distress Helpline

Apr 25, 2012, 3:35 PM, Posted by

The recent spate of severe storms around the country is a driving catalyst behind the decision by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) to change the status of its formerly as-needed helpline available after disasters, into a permanent program—the Disaster Distress Helpline.

Brad Stone, a SAMHSA spokesperson, says previously the agency would engage the 24/7 helpline (1-800 985-5990, text 66746) after disasters such as hurricanes to help people in need of mental health counseling and referral. Stone says SAMHSA found the disasters were occurring frequently enough that having it continually available was the best way to help people as soon as a crisis strikes.

The helpline immediately connects callers to trained professionals from the closest crisis counseling center who can provide confidential counseling, referrals and other support services.

“When disaster strikes, people react with increased anxiety, worry and anger. With community and family support, most of us bounce back. Some may need extra assistance to cope with unfolding events and uncertainties,” says SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.

Multilingual help is available and the helpline is intended for anyone experiencing psychological distress as a result of natural or man-made disasters, incidents of mass violence or any other tragedy affecting America's communities.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.