Communities Impacted by Hurricane Ian can access free peer support to overcome challenges
Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis announced additional mental health initiatives that are available for Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian through the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Florida Department of Health (DOH).
Available now, DCF has launched the Family Support Line, which connects individuals and families who were impacted by Hurricane Ian with peers who were impacted and have recovered from Hurricane Michael. Volunteers from the Panhandle will use their personal experiences to provide support, advice and a helping hand to victims of Hurricane Ian. These peers have lived through similar loss and are well acquainted with the road to rebuilding that Southwest Florida is facing. Volunteers will also help direct Hurricane Ian survivors to resources that are available at the state, federal, and local level, including information about bridge loans, roof repair, disaster unemployment assistance, and disaster SNAP benefits. Individuals who would like to talk with a Family Support Peer can call 888-850-SWFL.
DOH and DCF have also partnered with BetterHelp to provide three months of free online therapy to those impacted by Hurricane Ian. BetterHelp is the largest online therapy platform that matches licensed, certified therapists with people who seek help and support.
To access these free services, Floridians can visit betterhelp.com/voucher and use code: HurricaneIan. BetterHelp will then prompt the user to answer questions that allows them to be matched with a licensed mental health professional.
Floridians are resilient and these tools will generate conversations to break the stigma of mental health and encourage impacted residents to seek help. Following Hurricane Michael, DOH conducted a survey to assess mental health impacts in the panhandle. This survey found that:
- Nearly 50% reported anxiety.
- Nearly 40% reported depression.
- Nearly 35% reported trouble sleeping or nightmares.
The state of Florida is providing access to mental health counseling throughout Hurricane Ian recovery efforts to mitigate the development of mental health issues among impacted communities, including survivors and first responders. By providing tools and resources that build resiliency, communities are supported to get back on their feet.
DCF and DOH have also developed materials with information to be distributed in impacted areas on how to deescalate a stressful situation in real time. It includes information on the Family Support Line, and a QR Code for free BetterHelp services. Community partners are encouraged to assist with distribution in their areas.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 988 to be connected to the National Suicide Hotline. If you are experiencing or see a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.