State launches ‘Washington Listens’ support line in response to COVID-19 stress

Washington Listens Support Line operator

SPOKANE, Wash. — Those who may feel extra stress or sadness during the pandemic now have another resource to get help.

The state launched a support line in response to COVID-19 stress, calling it ‘Washington Listens.’ The line is a little different from other mental health crisis hotlines. It’s confidential and anonymous. Support staff will not ask for names or addresses.

“Some people calling in are actually calling in for support or listening. They’re going through a hard time,” said Rachell Stenson, the lead supervisor for the Washington Listens support line.

Stenson is one of what will be 120 people there to listen.

The pandemic has upended many lives, causing a great deal of stress. People have lost jobs and are trying to teach kids at home.

Dr. Suzie Johnson, the clinical director of outpatient services at Frontier Behavioral Health, said they’ve seen an increase of people coming in and needing help.

“The first month or so they seem to do OK, but as it’s drug on longer and longer, it’s been more challenging,” said Johnson said.

The state received $2.2 million to launch the line and help people who need it. Frontier Behavioral Health in Spokane is 1 of 7 agencies ready to answer the phone.

When those in need do dial that number, they will try to connect people with someone in the same area. However, right now, as not all 120 support staff are trained, anyone in the state can answer.

The purpose of Washington Listens is to do that – for someone to just listen.

“It is not intended to provide a diagnoses or interpret a diagnoses, or replicate any service somebody would be getting from a mental health professional,” said Kelli Miller, the chief administrative officer for Frontier Behavioral Health.

Sometimes a person just needs someone to talk to, vent to or share concerns with.

“We are all going through a certain level of stress, a monumental level of change, which is unsettling and causes anxiety and sometimes depression,” Miller said.

If the support staff feel like a person needs additional help, they’ll find them local resources by just asking for a zip code.

There are a few other ways to maintain mental health other than just talking to someone. Johnson said people should set goals for themselves and focus on personal wellness rather than the negativity surrounding the pandemic.

“One of the most important things we can do is ask ourselves everyday: Are we going to let this situation make us bitter or better?” Johnson advised.

Those wanting someone to just talk to can call the Washington Listens line at 1-833-681-0211.

If someone has a more urgent mental health crisis, they can call the following numbers:

  • 24/7 Regional Crisis Line: 1-877-266-1818
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
  • Crisis text line: Text ‘HEAL’ to 741741

To learn more about Washington Listens, click here.