Sometimes a simple phone call makes all the difference in someone’s day. In the Covid era of isolation, anxiety, and stress, it could be the vital lifeline someone needs.

That’s the idea behind the “friends and family” program at COVID Support VT. Anyone can sign up a loved one (with their permission) through a simple online form. One of the program’s “warmline” Support Counselors will reach out at the requested time. Counselors are trained to listen empathetically, assess emotional well-being, and offer advice for coping with anxiety and stress. They can also connect people to community resources that can help them. The service is free and confidential for all Vermonters regardless of age. Interpreter services and a Spanish-speaking counselor are available.

Reaching Out to Those Most Vulnerable to the Mental Health Effects of Isolation

Cath Burns, Ph.D., a Vermont-based psychologist and Quality Director for Vermont Care Partners, is COVID Support VT’s Clinical Supervisor. “As we approach the first-year mark since lockdown in Vermont, there’s a growing appreciation that we truly are all in this together, and many are continuing to struggle,” Burns says. “Not everyone is comfortable reaching out for help, but sometimes a little connection with another person makes a huge difference. We are here to help people connect with each other, or with us, to feel better.”

COVID Support VT is a federally funded program to help Vermonters cope with pandemic-related anxiety and stress. It does so through education, emotional support, and connections to community resources. The goal is to promote resilience, empowerment and ultimately, recovery from the Covid crisis. 

Research Shows Benefit of Phone Calls to Lessen Anxiety, Depression and Loneliness

A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry underscores the value of the simple phone call. Repeated a few times a week, it can ward off loneliness, calm anxiety, and ease depression. That’s what researchers from the University of Texas at Austin found when they had volunteers make calls to otherwise isolated individuals. The regional Meals on Wheels program in Central Texas helped identify study participants. Volunteer callers recruited by the researchers received two hours of training in empathetic listening and conversation skills before reaching out to participants. They called five times a week for the first two weeks, then let participants choose how often for the next two weeks. The majority chose to continue with five per week. After four weeks, the participants who received calls reported less isolation, less anxiety, and less depressive symptoms compared to a control group who did not receive calls. 

“Family and friends are often the critical link in connecting people to the help they need,” says Cathy Aikman, Project Director for COVID Support VT. “This is one more way to ensure our most vulnerable community members stay connected to their local support systems.”

Find resources for staying connected and preventing isolation here.

Need to talk? 

Call 2-1-1 (option #2) or 866-652-4636 (option #2) for free, confidential, one-on-one counseling. Our Support Counselors are available weekdays.

In crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825;  text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health agency for 24/7 support 

Find Help

Find resources and tools for coping with stress at Follow COVID Support VT on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And, to stay up-to-date, sign up for our newsletter and blog.

Learn about upcoming Wellness Workshops from COVID Support VT, and Town Halls we’re hosting in partnership with community organizations.

One-click translation to 100 languages of everything on the website, plus Multilingual Resources & downloadable materials in 10 languages common to Vermont’s New American immigrant and refugee communities. 

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Departments of Emergency Management and Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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