Tools to help navigate COVID-19 mental health struggles
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TEXARKANA, Ark. - COVID-19 has been stressful for most Americans, but there is help available.

Southwest Arkansas Counseling and Mental Health Center, a local non-profit, is offering free counseling services and resources to all Arkansas residents by partnering with FEMA to help people deal with the stress created by the pandemic.

"A lot of us are struggling during this time period," said Stacy Humphrey, SWAR Counseling & Mental Health Center Clinical director.

Humphrey said the first step is to recognize you're not alone. Even though it may look like others have it together, she said many people are experiencing stress, fear and loneliness and mental disorders including, anxiety and depression, can worsen.

"So many of the things we do find enjoyment in are things we're limited and not able to do. So how do we evolve that, how do we still find enjoyment in life and how do we practice that in a different way?" asked Humphrey.

The Promoting Positive Emotions program is geared towards helping southwest Arkansas residents recover mentally and emotionally. The services are confidential and free.

Humphrey said people are not just concerned about the sickness, but also fear of having limited resources and facing financial challenges.

"How do we continue to protect our own mental health because we are social individuals? We do need to interact, but we also need availability, whether it's jobs, food and resources to assist us," said Humphrey.

She said the program will help people manage stress through education, outreach and counseling. The program's FEMA crisis counselors can also connect people with resources such as food pantries, available testing sites, childcare resources, housing assistance and in some cases, utility assistance.

The Southwest Arkansas Counseling and Mental Health Center in Texarkana serves a nine-county area. FEMA is providing $150,000 to kick start the program.

"The grant is providing so much the resources that we're able to get it out it there and help try to educate those around our area," said Humphrey.

Humphrey said talking about your stress, figuring out what you can and can't control and learning everyday coping skills are basic resources that could make a big difference in how we all navigate these difficult times.

"We're more or less a gatekeeper to come on in and from there if there are mental health issues that need to be addressed we can certainly refer you," said Humphrey.

The program is available for all Arkansans, including children under the age of 18, with parental or guardian consent.

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For more information on the free "Stay Positive Arkansas" program go to www.staypositivearkansas.com

This article originally ran on ktbs.com.

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