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COVID-19 pandemic brings increased burden on mental health

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(WBNG) -- According to the American Psychiatric Association, more than one-third of Americans say the pandemic has had an impact on mental health.

Right in the Southern Tier, mental health experts say New Yorkers are feeling the isolation that comes with staying at home.

At the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST), they offer a "warm line" where people can call for support.

MHAST Executive Director Keith Leahey says the line is there for people who need someone to talk to.

However, since the pandemic has started, MHAST has since an 80 percent increase in calls to their warm line.

"We received just over 3,000 calls in the first quarter of 2020," says Leahey.

Leahey says a common feeling everyone seems to be sharing is the feeling of being isolated.

"People are feeling pretty isolated, and that's something our organization plays a critical role in the community, helping to address issues like isolation," said Leahey.

For organizations like MHAST, there's a concern that government funding will be reduced due to the coronavirus. If that were to happen, MHAST would not be able to provide their mental health resources.

"We know that this is going to be a long term need, and service is going to be at record levels, there's no question about that. The state is facing some pretty difficult budget-related issues," said Leahey.

With the growing number of phone calls, Leahey says he's confident this mental health crisis won't be going away anytime soon.

"If you just look at the latest on unemployment numbers, we have 38 million people who are out of work. You have parents who are home, who are trying to not only work and provide and take care of things at home, but many of them are now teachers as well," said Leahey.

If you or a loved one needs help, you can contact the New York State COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314.

Katie Jones

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