Editor’s Note: SOURCE and the MetroWest Chamber have formed a partnership. The Chamber’s column publishes on Tuesdays on the digital news media outlet. This week, the Chamber allowed one of its members Call2Talk based in Framingham to be features in its column. The report is written by SOURCE intern Grace Mayer, a Boston College student.
By Grace Mayer
FRAMINGHAM – During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, stress, and anxiety were abundant, even for people, some as young as 8 years old, who never struggled with their mental health.
“What we’re noticing is that a person that may not have ever experienced this sort of level of anxiety or feelings of despair before, it’s starting to weigh on them,” said Eileen Davis, founder of Call2Talk, a mental health call and text service that replies to residents across Massachusetts. “Mental health and emotional support resources are probably more important now and going forward.”
COVID-19 highlighted another pandemic—it heightened the spread of the mental health crisis across the United States. But while cases of mental health may have soared, Call2Talk, under the United Way of Tri-County umbrella, responded.
Davis said Call2Talk answered over 84,000 calls and texts in 2020—at least double the number of calls and texts they received the previous year. She said her volunteers also noticed they were receiving an increase in calls placed by younger demographics.
Kids, some only 8, 10, and 11 years olds, were phoning in to Call2Talk. With middle schools and high schools resorting to remote and virtual learning, Davis said kids were more likely to feel isolated and lonely during those times.
But even before the pandemic, 14% of middle schoolers and 20% of high schoolers were reporting that they experienced depressive symptoms, according to a 2018 survey by the MetroWest Health Foundation. High schoolers who reported they were stressed were also nearly four times more likely to experience depressive symptoms, according to another 2018 survey by the MetroWest Health Foundation.
Calls from this past year, during the peak of the pandemic, mainly related to concerns about personally contracting COVID-19, or family members and friends getting sick with the virus, Davis said. Since then, Davis said the concerns volunteers are now hearing revolve around wearing masks, cases rising and falling, working in-person, and traveling. But, Davis said, sometimes people who reach out to Call2Talk don’t know why they’re anxious.
“Whatever’s going on, if it’s bad weather, if it’s politics, if it’s hardships, financially hard times, … people are just internalizing those pressures or stressors in their lives. That sort of dictates the trend for why people call,” Davis said.
Davis founded Call2Talk in 2013, after noticing that a similar service that provided immediate care to people who are struggling with mental health didn’t exist in the MetroWest. By 2016, the healthline expanded across Massachusetts. Since then, the service has trained nearly a hundred volunteers—many of whom joined Call2Talk during the pandemic.
“There were some people that were concerned about volunteering during Covid, but there were enough people that wanted to do something to help during the trying time that we were fortunate enough, we did have a lot of help,” Davis said.
To expand its mission to address the mental health crisis, Call2Talk is working with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health to provide better access to resources, including clinicians and programs, which can be hard for someone to navigate on their own, Davis said.
“The best advice is to be honest about how you’re feeling,” Davis said, “and not keep it from the people that could potentially support you.”
If you are someone you know is struggling please call or text these numbers:
If you have friend or family at UMass or the western part of the state, call: 413-505-5111
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
By dialing 2-1-1 ext: 25
Text: “C2T” to 741741