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New Jersey Offering Free Mental Health Counseling To Those Coping With Sandy

Home damaged by Sandy in Toms River, NJ Nov. 1, 2012 (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Home damaged by Sandy in Toms River, NJ Nov. 1, 2012 (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

CBS New York (con't)

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Superstorm Sandy

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – For those in New Jersey having a hard time coping with the loss and devastation brought on by superstorm Sandy, help is being offered.

Gov. Chris Christie’s administration announced state and federal emotional stress hotlines have been made available to New Jersey residents and relief workers.

Sandy left tens of thousands of residents homeless or without their belongings. Hundreds of thousands still remain without power and heat as the relief effort continues.

EXTRA: Disaster Relief Information

“New Jersey residents are incredibly resilient. During my visits to affected hospitals, shelters and communities, I met many displaced residents, health care workers and first responders who are demonstrating incredible courage and resourcefulness in helping patients, families, friends and neighbors,” said Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd.

“It is important for everyone – the public and EMS and health care workers – to recognize the signs of distress and take advantage of the resources available during these challenging times as we get back to normal,” O’Dowd said in a news release.

The state’s division of mental health and addiction services is coordinating statewide efforts to help people and communities manage the emotional impacts of the storm.

“No one who lives through a disaster is untouched by the experience,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez. “It’s right and real to feel emotional, and important to know that there are state and federal resources available to help individuals experience these feelings in a safe and constructive way.”

Free in-person crisis counseling is also being offered at FEMA disaster recovery centers across the state.

In addition, the Disaster and Terrorism Branch will provide informational materials about coping and has partnered with the Mental Health Association in New Jersey to offer assistance through a toll free Disaster Mental Health Helpline: 1-877-294-HELP (4357). A TTY line is available for persons who are deaf and hearing impaired at 1-877-294-4356.

The federal government also has a Disaster Distress website and helpline that provides 24/7 crisis counseling and support resources available at 1-800-985-5990 or Text TalkWithUS to 66746.

The federal helpline is staffed by trained counselors from a network of crisis call centers located across the U.S., all of whom provide crisis counseling for those who are in emotional distress.

According to mental health experts, signs of distress may include any of the following reactions:

  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Stomach aches or headaches
  • Anger, feeling edgy or lashing out at others
  • Overwhelming sadness
  • Worrying a lot of the time; feeling guilty but not sure why
  • Feeling like you have to keep busy
  • Lack of energy or always feeling tired
  • Drinking alcohol, smoking or using tobacco more than usual; using illegal drugs
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Not connecting with others
  • Feeling like you won’t ever be happy again
  • Rejecting of help.

To help New Jersey residents as they cleanup homes and businesses after Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Health has public health experts available through the state’s 2-1-1 system to answer questions about food and water safety and mold removal.

To reach public health experts, call 2-1-1 or 1-866-234-0964. Public Health officials are available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The 2-1-1 human services hotline is open 24/7.

Additional resources about Hurricane help and recovery – including lists of shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens – are available here.

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