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Voices of Cura: New SLU Hotline Offers Support to Frontline Health Care Workers


Saint Louis University clinical psychologists are helping those fighting to save lives endangered by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) by creating a new hotline for frontline health care workers at SSM Health hospitals. 

The Angel of Mercy statue on the south campus of Saint Louis University

Volunteers from SLU's Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychology, along with partners from the St. Louis community, have created a new hotline to help frontline health care workers at three SSM Health hospitals care for their mental and psychological health as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic. SLU photo

The hotline will allow those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic to care for their psychological and mental health during this time of pandemic.

The Psychological Support Hotline has been established by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience in SLU’s School of Medicine and the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences in partnership with Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute (SLBMI) to offer support to nurses, faculty and resident physicians and other health care workers at SSM Health Saint Louis University, SSM Health St. Mary’s and SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospitals.

The free hotline is being staffed by clinical psychologists from the psychiatry and psychology departments as well as a volunteer clinical psychologist from the wider St. Louis community, Lauren Schwarz, Ph.D., professor and clinical psychologist, explained. A licensed clinical social worker and nurse clinic manager are also facilitating hotline operations. 

The hotline will operate Monday through Friday during standard work hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is expected to operate for several months, at which time its sponsors hope that the stresses of the current pandemic will have diminished, Schwarz said.

The hotline’s 12 volunteer staffers are providing referrals to Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute for those callers who would benefit from more ongoing care.

“As mental health professionals we are acutely aware of the mental health needs that may arise in a time of crisis,” Schwarz said. “We want to be able to provide support for individuals who have been and will be acutely affected by the COVID pandemic. In order to be able to provide care for others, we must truly care for ourselves as well.”

The hotline will provide psychological support for callers, either by telephone or through Zoom-enabled video.

Callers who need more intensive support or who prefer to speak with an off-campus provider can be referred to SLBMI. The institute has the capacity to provide therapy via remote mechanisms, including resources to help children or to address issues affecting couples. While the hotline is free, SLBMI’s services would be billable. SLBMI accepts most insurance plans that cover the physicians, nurses, and staff who are referred to them.

“This tele-support line exemplifies cura personalis – caring for the whole person,” Schwarz said. “We want to aid the mind and spirit of our providers when needed. As a department, as with our hotline partners in the Department of Psychology and at SLBMI, we serve the mental health needs of our community, which includes our own SLU community members. Care for oneself and supporting our colleagues is a core value.”

“The tele-support line is meant to be an outlet for individuals who need a supportive and empathic listener,” she continued. “This not meant to be psychotherapy, rather an ear to listen and provide resources if needed. Sometimes what we really need is someone to hear us, listen without judgment, and empathize. That is what we are here to do.”

Need to Make a Call?

For questions or more information, contact Gayle Heady.

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of more than 13,000 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of now more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.