On Kauai, virtual counseling offers struggling residents an important lifeline

Updated: Mar. 3, 2021 at 5:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents on Kauai are now eligible for three hours of free counseling with a new program.

WorkLife Hawaii Director Naomi Sutton said the county asked if their 30 counselors could help residents out with counseling.

The program ran for three weeks in December and was funded through federal CARES Act money. However, it took a temporary pause after the money ran out.

Through a grant made by the Hawaii Community Foundation, the program now extends until August. They can call WorkLife Hawaii, a division of Child and Family Service, at (808) 543-8445 to set up an appointment.

“We’ve heard about all kinds of struggles,” said Sutton.

“There are parents who are still doing distance learning for their children, and trying to figure that out and work at the same time. We’ve had kupuna call who are just so isolated and scared about contracting COVID.”

According to an American Psychological Association’s survey from September, most psychologists have reported an increase in patients with anxiety disorders and depressive disorders amid the pandemic.

Patricia Wistinghausen has been a mental health advocate on Kauai for years and said there has always been a strong demand for more help. She is currently a safeTALK suicide prevention trainer.

“We always need more mental health resources, counselors, everything,” Winstinghausen said.

“People need to know that there are resources and assistance out there, a place where they can call to just talk with somebody.”

Wistinghausen said that with all of the recent changes to the community due to the pandemic, more folks on the island are reaching out for help.

However, she said there is still a strong stigma surrounding mental health.

“It’s it is a culture thing,” she said. “People don’t want to appear weak, they don’t want to appear like they can’t handle something or don’t have their stuff figured out. But at the same time, we’re all humans.”

Wistinghausen said this program is important to reach those who don’t have health care.

Especially now, with so many people out of work and who lost their insurance during the pandemic.” she said.

The WorkLife program is not a crisis line, but a way to get set up with a counselor.

Those experiencing a mental health crisis can call Hawaii CARES 24 hours, seven days a week at (808) 832-3100 on Oahu and at 1(800) 753-6879 on neighbor islands.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

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