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Sometimes the pandemic is the center of callers concerns, other times it overshadowing challenges that predate the outbreak.

Clinical workers who take calls from people in crisis are facing their own emotional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Calls to domestic violence hotlines have increased as some Oregonians encouraged to stay home have found that home can be a dangerous place. Portland's police chief said in late March that 911 calls related to suicide were up.

At Lines for Life, which answers calls across numerous hotlines related to substance abuse and suicide, worries about the coronavirus are now a constant.

"People's anxiety is up," said Greg Borders, chief clinical officer at Lines for Life. "There are a lot more questions than there are answers at this time, and that's something that can be particularly upsetting and activating for people."

Most callers to Lines for Life are now mentioning COVID-19, Borders said. Sometimes the pandemic is the center of their concerns, other times it overshadowing challenges that predate the outbreak.

"Stay Home-Stay Safe" restrictions are especially challenging for people in distress.

"People are feeling isolated. People are feeling worried about the financial situation they are in – whether that be around the stock market and their retirement, or something more pressing," Borders said. "Am I going to lose my job? I haven't been working and I've already lost my job. I'm trying to apply for unemployment"

Lines for Life leaders are trying to keep the clinical workers who take these calls updated about unemployment guidelines and other resources so they can provide accurate and helpful information to callers, he said.

This OPB story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.

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