By Mike Kruzman /

Livingston County residents struggling with the mental toll of the coronavirus pandemic can now get free, over-the-phone counseling from the state.

Confidential emotional support counseling is now available 24/7 from the state’s COVID-19 hotline. The service, funded by a federal grant, has been implemented by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration, in partnership with the Michigan State Police. Residents who dial the hotline can press “8” from the menu and speak to a Michigan Stay Well counselor.

The counselors are not licensed professionals, but have received specialized training from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s Disaster Technical Assistance Center. That training helps and allows them to provide emotional support to residents of federally declared disaster areas, of which Michigan has been since March 27th.

Dr. Debra Pinals is a psychiatrist and the state medical director for behavioral health. She said, in a release, that “emerging or lingering anxiety, distress, irritability, and loss of hope are important feelings to recognize in ourselves and others, and it can help to talk to someone.” MDHHS Director Robert Gorden said they want Michiganders to know it’s okay to have those feelings and it’s okay to ask for help.

Stay Well counselors can be reached by calling the COVID-19 Hotline, at 888-535-6136. Those who feel more comfortable talking through a text, can also receive crisis counseling from the state that way by texting RESTORE to 741741.