The continuation of remote learning and stress from the pandemic is putting a strain on many people. The state has expanded a helpline to assist North Carolina's teachers, school personnel and their families with mental health needs.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services launched the Hope4Healers Helpline earlier this year to provide support to first responders and health care workers. Staff who work in child care programs have since been added to the program.

So far, it's served more than 160 people.

Now educators can also access these services. It works a little differently than a hotline. After the initial call, they will be connected with a licensed mental health professional within about a day for a free, confidential counseling session by phone or video chat.

Val Young is a kindergarten teacher and president of the Forsyth County Association of Educators. She says it's a tough and uncertain situation for everyone right now.

“You know whatever is going to happen, you have to do what's best for our students. That's an awful lot of trauma going into one person,” says Young. “And then let's put on top of that you have a family. You're teaching and then having to assist your child, so that's just a lot of pressure going on.”

The program is a volunteer-led effort through a partnership with the North Carolina Psychological Foundation. They are looking for additional licensed behavioral health professionals to support this helpline.

"Right now, we have enough volunteers to meet the call volumes without delays or backlogs,” says Kody Kinsley, NCDHHS deputy secretary for Behavioral Health & Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 

“Of course with adding teachers, we are going to see more growth in need, as we will with other essential workers if this continues to evolve, and so we are always welcoming more volunteers to expand our capability and to give some relief to the folks who have been dedicating their time so far,” Kinsley adds.

Volunteers must register though the NC Training, Exercise, and Response Management System.

The Hope4Healers helpline (919-226-2002) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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