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211 Big Bend Hot Line Sees Increased Calls Amid Coronavirus Concerns

A black and white photo shows the hands of a man holding an iphone
Photo by Marjan Grabowski on Unsplash

The number of calls coming into the 211 Big Bend hotline increased by about 70% for the month of March compared with last year. The organization offers help with issues ranging from access to food, to mental health services, to getting more information about the coronavirus.

As concerns about the coronavirus have ramped up, so have the number of calls to going to 211 Big Bend. After last month’s spike, the organization’s president, Randy Nicklaus, says this month’s call volume remains high.

We are constantly answering questions about financial situations they’re struggling with. They may have lost their jobs. They may be worried about food. So we’re trying to help them with what in the community is available,” Nicklaus says.

Nicklaus says counselors have up-to-date information about available services and even information on what’s happening with the coronavirus.

“If people are worried about something, first of all are they worried about accurate information? We can help provide information to make sure they’re not worried about something that’s not really a true thing that’s going on. Sometimes they’re worried about rumors and myths about something, so we can help correct that and also give them the correct information,” Nicklaus says.

In addition to calls about information and anxiety, Nicholas says the hotline has seen an increase in suicide related calls. 211 Big Bend operates as a suicide hotline.

“So we have seen the trend in that area and I suspect that other areas, like domestic violence, substance abuse, will increase as a result of what’s going on. Time will tell what we see on our hotline,” Nicklaus says.

Many, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, have raised concerns that stay-home orders could put added pressure on families leading to a potential increase in issues like domestic violence. Nicklaus says he hasn’t seen any evidence of that yet, but adds that in his experience more severe mental health concerns often arise after a crisis has passed.

“We see that all the time after events happen. The situations for a lot of people don’t improve right away. They get worse and they need more help and they have more anxiety, depression, and they may act on that in not so positive ways. Right now we’re getting a lot of those calls about anxiety, but I think that may change into something more serious as time goes on,” Nicklaus says.

Dialing 211 connects a caller to a counselor any time of the day or night. They’re available to just talk, or to help anyone find the resources they need.