Romanians now have the option to call a national emotional support line for pandemic stress.
Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu launched the helpline on Tuesday. He used the occasion to open a discussion about attitudes to mental health in Romania, a topic which carries a social stigma.
Some 40 volunteer psychologists will take calls from people dealing with feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness, or depression related to work, Mr. Voiculescu said.
People can call the emotional support line on 021 9081 which operates at a normal tariff.
The helpline will be open Monday to Saturday from 12 to 8 p.m
The minister said the pandemic had led to a reduction in access to mental health services.
There is a general level of stress and people were feeling “fatigue, confusion and sometimes fury,” he said.
A professional who is trained in mental health will answer calls to offer support.
“It will be there for anyone who really needs it for emotional support,” the minister said during an online press conference.
“Public health measures, physical distancing and closing schools for relatively long periods or shutting down businesses are all means to save lives and limit the pandemic,” he said.
“But as I said, many times it’s overwhelming for individuals and also at the community level,” he added.
He said the World Health Organization “talks about a parallel epidemic” referring to the deterioration of people’s mental health.
“If we are being honest, Romania doesn’t have a tradition of talking openly about mental health issues,” he said. “There’s a stigma attached to depression, anxiety even if nobody should be ashamed.”
The helpline is being launched with the help of the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, the Association of Psychotherapists and mobile phone operator Vodafone.
“It’s an extraordinary thing and I think that it underlines what we all know and that is by standing side by side we’ll get through this pandemic and this challenging period,” he added.