Calls to GBHWC crisis hotline increase due to COVID-19

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Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center (PNC file photo)

1,150 percent! That’s how much the rate of calls to the crisis hotline has increased in six months.

Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Director Theresa Arriola said this exponential increase can be attributed to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center’s crisis hotline has always been in existence but with the coronavirus reaching our shores and invading our homes, more and more island residents are seeking out help in dealing with the mental stresses of the pandemic.

Arriola says her agency knew they had to shore up staffing and it’s a good thing they did as the crisis hotline has gained popularity.

“In an average normal day prior to the pandemic we would have one or two calls a day. Anywhere between 25 and 30 calls a month. But when the pandemic hit and specifically when the first announcements of the deaths hit we saw a major upswing in the use of the crisis hotline. We went from anywhere between 25-30 a month which is one or 2 calls a day to 25 calls a day,” Arriola said.

In mid-March, Arriola said the uncertainty of the virus brought an increase in calls to the hotline from concerned residents seeking out more information regarding the pandemic.

“But as the weeks went by like early April, it really sunk into the community like wow we’ve been in our home in quarantine, really, feelings of isolation. Then you saw a lot more depression calls coming, anxiety calls coming in and unfortunately suicide ideation, people feeling overwhelmed on top of everything they’re going through this pandemic … the unknown,” Arriola said.

Arriola reports 568 calls in July and 519 in June. That’s a 1150 percent increase in total calls from mid-March to May as compared to before the pandemic.

Arriola said that as relief came to the people of Guam some of their anxieties subsided but there are still calls from residents asking when the virus will be over. Arriola stresses that the virus will never be over “but we are trying to get to a point where we can live with it without it being so contagious.”

Arriola stressed that GBHWC is an essential agency and open to serve the community.

“We are open in our Tamuning facility for emergencies and walk-ins and we are asking everyone  to know that they’re not alone and to pick up the phone and call 647-8833 which is our crisis hotline and from there we can talk you through some of the concerns and anxieties,” Arriola said.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.