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COVID-19 can affect mental health, even if a person is not suffering from the disease. 

As the pandemic stretches on, people are experiencing stress and hardship in all aspects of their lives.

“Stress is cumulative, and the direct and secondary trauma that community members may experience can result in a wide range of challenges,” said Tiffany Gonzalez, director of behavioral health for Bluebonnet Trails Community Services

To support the mental health of Central Texas residents, Bluebonnet Trails Community Services is offering free COVID-19 virtual crisis counseling. The organization received a FEMA grant to cover the costs. 

“We’re doing short-term counseling right now, online,” Gonzalez said. “We can also help people find resources that they need.”

Bluebonnet Trails has offices across Central Texas, but providing services via phone or video allows counselors to reach out to people in rural and underserved communities, including Burnet County.

The organization also offers free virtual support groups as well as individual and family crisis counseling for all ages. 

Gonzalez said Bluebonnet Trails provides training for first responders, churches, businesses, schools, hospitals, and organizations in psychological first aid and other programs that can help a community respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Often, the biggest hurdle to someone seeking help is not knowing they need it.

“If you feel different than before the pandemic, maybe more sad than before, that’s a sign you may need to talk to someone,” Gonzalez said. “If you’re feeling impacted by COVID-19, it’s a good idea to talk it out.”

Other signs a person might need to talk with a counselor are: 

  • misusing substances such as alcohol
  • feelings of depression, helplessness, and isolation
  • fear of not being able to make ends meet
  • panic attacks
  • grief due to the sickness or death of a loved one

Seeking help is the next big step.

“I think a lot of us are helpers and humble, so asking for help isn’t something we’re used to,” said Gonzalez, pointing out that many refuse to ask out of fear of seeming weak. 

People can request counseling through the Bluebonnet Trails Community Services website. as well as find available resources, support groups, and training opportunities. 

Bluebonnet Trails also has a 24-hour crisis hotline at 1-800-841-1255.