As a volunteer counselor at Crisis Text Line, Sara Schaller often receives texts from people who are thinking about harming themselves. But now, amid a global pandemic, she’s noticing a shift in the messages: “More anxiety and panic. More fear and not knowing what to do with themselves.”
On Monday, Schaller, who is based in Michigan, said she texted with about a dozen people over the course of three hours – all of them reached out about the coronavirus outbreak. Some expressed concerns about being “stuck at home” with parents they aren’t close to; others discussed how to tackle their anxiety related to being isolated all day.
Crisis Text Line is a non-profit text-based hotline intended for people experiencing suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, stress and anxiety. It’s one of the many digital options people are turning to as the coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread. All 50 US states are now reporting confirmed cases.
While Crisis Text Line is intended for people in crisis, and not as a replacement for therapy or friendship, there are a handful of other services, including therapy apps such as Talkspace, self-care apps like Shine and meditation apps including Headspace, that are also taking note of the rise in anxieties around finances, the health of loved ones and isolation caused by coronavirus.
They’re launching new features, discounts and tools to help at a time when in-person therapy options and other self-care outlets are more limited as US businesses temporarily close and more people are urged to stay home.
People can text CRISIS to 741741 to connect with counselors, who work remotely, around the clock, These volunteers have “always been at home on the couch, in their jammies,” CEO Nancy Lublin, who founded Crisis Text Line in 2013, told CNN Business.
Lublin said that while the service most often has people under the age of 18 texting in, it’s now experiencing an increase in the number of adults seeking support. The organization has especially seen outreach from people who are concerned about paying bills and feel responsible for the well-being of older parents, she added.
The non-profit is also “watching for” an uptick in outreach from people experiencing child abuse or domestic violence as they find themselves stuck inside households with abusers, Lublin said.
Meanwhile, at Talkspace, therapists are fielding a range of questions from how best to talk to an employer about coronavirus to what is a reasonable amount of worry. The company recently launched a therapist-led support group on Facebook where individuals can seek guidance, tips and resources from professionals, and features a COVID-19 section on its Instagram account where therapists answer questions daily.
While pricing for Talkspace’s unlimited text therapy service starts at $65 per week, the company is giving discounted pricing to any new customer for the first month. Along with meditation app Headspace, it’s offering its service free to impacted healthcare workers. Simple Habit is providing free meditations sessions for all that are designed to relieve stress. It is also offering free premium app subscriptions through April – a plan that typically costs $11.99 per month – for those financially impacted by the pandemic, including those who’ve lost their jobs.
New support is coming online, too. Last week, self-care startup Shine launched a website in 48 hours called VirusAnxiety.com, after seeing a spike in people consuming content around anxiety within the Shine app.
The site, which is in partnership with nonprofit Mental Health America, features audio meditations, articles about isolation, financial fears and xenophobia, as well as an “Ask An Expert” section. Some recent examples: “I’m not worried about getting sick, but worried about giving it to others. Should I self-quarantine?” and “My wedding is planned for April. How can I better sit with the uncertainty?”
“We’re here in this complete state of unprecedented anxiety,” said Shine co-founder and co-CEO Marah Lidey. “Nothing will really be the same for awhile.”
Lidey said she’s encouraged by the number of people recognizing they need help to get through this time.
“Community is important; connection is important,”she said. “But [so is] getting to the right resources.”