Study finds 35% surge in calls to mental health crisis lines during pandemic

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Mental health crisis lines experienced a 35 percent surge in calls relating to fears and loneliness early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, a study analyzing over 8 million calls published Nov. 7 in Nature found.

Researchers analyzed calls from 23 helplines across 19 countries from 2019 to early 2021, taking into account timing of different policy measures and COVID-19 waves. 

Noted limitations to the study included the potential for call counts to be influenced by supply of crisis workers rather than demand of calls and representativeness of callers to helplines.

Four key findings: 

  • After crisis lines with daily data available peaked at week six at 35 percent above pre-pandemic levels, call volumes began to decline, reaching 6.2 percent above in week 11.

  • Other call topics decreased, with overall drops in relationships, financial concerns, addiction and violence. 

  • There was no significant decline in calls for suicidal ideation, other than in men younger than 30.

  • Women 30 and younger made more calls for violence.

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