Screening hot line, Web site can help with holiday blues
This time of year means caroling, holiday parties and decking the halls — but not everyone can be as jolly as Old St. Nick.
Officials with Boston-based Screening for Mental Health Inc. work with the Defense Department to help people deal with and spot their mental ills, including alcoholism.
A company spokeswoman warned last week that even though the numbers of callers to their phone line and their Web site goes down during the holidays, more people could need help this time year, especially with the waning economy.
“The assessment tool (on the phone line and Web site) is a great way to help you determine is this a reaction to holiday stress or something more serious,” said Katherine Cruise, Mental Health Inc.’s communications manager.
“What we have found in the past is that people don’t use them as much during the holidays,” Air Force Col. Joyce Adkins said. “During that period of time they spend more time with their family and friends and they are not as likely to recognize their feelings.” Adkins is DOD’s director of psychological strategic operations.
But after the holidays the number of callers and people who log on to the Web site goes up compared to the rest of the year, Adkins said. The numbers also increase during times of the year when more servicemembers move.
Adkins and Cruise said they believe the site and phone line are making a difference. They pointed out that the Web site just counted 100,000 users since it was launched in 2006.
Servicemembers, their dependents and other government employees can reach the phone line by dialing 1-877-877-3647 and remain anonymous, or they can log on to www.MilitaryMentalHealth.org for a free screening. The Web site also helps spot signs of post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder.
Cruise cautioned that the screenings are a diagnostic tool that simply point out if a user’s symptoms are consistent with one of those mental health problems and whether he or she should follow up with a mental health doctor. The line and Web site also give phone numbers for Military One and the Deployment Health Hotline and other options to get help.
And even though servicemembers have guaranteed paychecks at a time when the economy is in the dumps, they still can have money-related stresses, Cruise said. Some people’s stocks could be taking a hit, they could be worried about family members being affected by the economy or they could have a house to worry about, she added.