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RI mental health hotline sees spike in calls amid pandemic


EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ For many people, the coronavirus pandemic has canceled plans, forced social isolation and caused high anxiety.

“In the same way that we are going to see a rise in the number of folks in hospitals, we are seeing a rise in the number of adults and children struggling with mental illness,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said during one of her daily coronavirus briefings.

BH Link – the state’s triage and call center for mental health and substance use disorders – is now dealing with an increase in calls due to COVID-19.

As a former police officer and a veteran, BH Link Director Robert Abbruzzese said he believes his employees are currently working on the front lines. 

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, Abbruzzese said his center has seen a significant decrease in the number of people coming in, but an increase in the number of people calling in for help.

“We’re kind of the catchall,” Abbruzzese explained. “We’re the 24-hour agency, so when people have questions, we get the calls. We do our best to meet the needs of whatever questions are asked.”

Abbruzzese said calls to BH Link are currently up 15 to 20%.

He said clients report dealing with the following issues:

  • General anxiety, fear, sadness and/or loneliness
  • Depression and/or social isolation
  • Caring for elderly loved ones
  • Issues with childcare
  • Employment or financial concerns
  • Testing and/or safety concerns
  • Resources
  • Housing 
  • Substance use disorder issues 
  • Coping methods

“People are suffering from normal depression or anxiety. Just a sadness,” Abbruzzese said. “Not being able to be around your loved ones. Every day we’re just trying to adapt.”

Abbruzzese reminds Rhode Islanders social isolation can take its toll. He said sometimes washing your hands can be just as important as remaining mindful of your emotions.

“Mental health issues are real,” Abbruzzese said. “It’s invisible, and it can be deadly. We’re here. We can help.”

If you, or someone you love, needs help during this time, contact BH Link at 401-414-LINK (5465).

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RI Coronavirus Hotline: (401) 222-8022 | Work-Related Questions: (401) 462-2020 | Mental Health Assistance: (401) 414-5465

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