If you or a loved one is in IMMEDIATE crisis, DO NOT WAIT. Call 9-1-1.

New Jersey was in the midst of a mental health crisis even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit nine months ago. The lockdown restrictions have only made a bad situation worse.

Leading clinicians and mental health experts cite a number of factors that can cause mental health issues like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or suicidal thoughts to erupt or worsen. They include: isolation, more downtime, less access to family and friends, little social interaction and loss of routine or structure. Pandemic restrictions have caused all of that and more.

Dr. Steven Tobias, director of the Center for Child & Family Development in Morristown, says even those who had been stable or improving prior to the pandemic, may show regression.

"What I'm finding is that a lot of my old clients who were doing OK, who were stabilized, are coming back," he said.

It’s important to continually check on our friends and loved ones, Tobias says, "because stress is cumulative — it builds and builds."

This article is part of a week-long New Jersey 101.5 series that examines the pandemic's impact on mental health and the treatment available for those who seek help. On Thursday, New Jersey 101.5 will present a live town hall with a panel of experts who will answer your questions. You can listen to the show at 7 p.m. on our app or watch and chat at Facebook.com/nj1015.

Perhaps no single group has been impacted more by the stresses of the pandemic than school kids forced to learn at home. Jeff Selman, vice president of clinical services at Cherry Hill-based First Children Services, says mental health problems for children and adolescents were already at a crisis stage.

“Here we have a situation that has exacerbated what was already a big problem," he said.

Making matters worse for youth was the fact that schools often provided critical access to mental health services. With many buildings closed, access to those services and early intervention by school staff have disappeared.

There is still help available. The expansion of telemedicine, in some cases, has actually increased access to vital services.

Below are some helpful links to help connect you to many of the programs and resources that are available in New Jersey.

NJ Suicide Hotline: 1-855-654-6735

The NJ Hopeline has experienced counselors available 24/7. Whatever you’re going through, feeling, or thinking, they are there to listen and support you. You can also access them online: https://njhopeline.com/.

Emotional Support: 866-202-HELP (4357)

The state Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, in collaboration with the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, provide emotional support due to the coronavirus. The NJ Mental HealthCares Helpline is staffed by trained counselors ready to listen. NOTE: This hotline is NOT staffed 24/7.
Every County has a 24/7 emergency screening/intervention hotline. A list of which can be found at: www.nj.gov/humanservices/dmhas/home/hotlines/MH_Screening_Centers.pdf

Substance abuse hotline: 844-732-2465

ReachNJ is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week addictions hotline where people who have substance use disorder, or friends and family of people with the disorder, can get immediate assistance and support from live, New Jersey-based, trained addiction counselors.

Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability hotline: 1-877-652-7624

The Children's System of Care offers a wide range of services for children up to age 21 for behavioral health or developmental disability needs. These services include community-based services, in-home services, out-of-home residential services, and family support services. For questions about or to access behavioral health or developmental disability services for children and youth, the hotline is staffed 24/7.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has produced a series of resource guides that can help you or a loved one navigate the services available in New Jersey.

County screening service hotlines

For psychiatric emergencies, crisis intervention services, information and referral.

Early intervention support services

Short-term, mental health services for adults with serious emotional or psychiatric distress. No appointment required for the first free visit. https://www.naminj.org/support/crisis-numbers/eiss/

The series

Catch up on this week's special series on mental health during the pandemic.

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