PA Gov Wolf orders scaled down Thanksgiving…Feeling lonely on Thanksgiving? The government is here to help

Harrisburg, PA –  Last week, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ordered his residents to not travel on Thanksgiving, curb parties and scale down celebrations with family all for the sake of fighting COVID-19.  Now, as you spend your holidays in solidarity and loneliness, have no fear, Wolf has an answer for that…the government.  If you’re not seeing how it all works yet, you soon will.

Here’s a press release issued by Wolf on Monday:

As the holidays are near, the Wolf Administration today shared resources for people struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, and other stressors. The holidays can be both a time of joy and a period of stress for people, depending on their circumstances. Mental well-being is an important part of everyone’s overall good health and remains a priority for the administration amid the ongoing pandemic.

Mental Health

People who experience feelings of anxiety or depression may experience more distress during the holiday season than during non-holiday times. Given the challenges we are all currently facing, all Pennsylvanians should take extra care to be mindful of their mental health and tend to their overall health and wellness during this time. Check in with yourself, be honest about how you are feeling to yourself and your support network, and if you need someone to talk to or a little extra support, help is available.

“This year has challenged all of us in ways that we could not have anticipated, and whether you normally deal with feelings of depression or anxiety or you are experiencing these for the first time, your feelings are valid,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller. “The holiday season and our family traditions will look different this year because it’s what we must do to keep each other safe, but there can be a grief that comes from that. No matter what you are feeling this year, please know that you do not have to endure it alone. Talk to your loved ones, talk to your support network, and don’t be afraid to make a call to resources that exist to help.”

DHS’ mental health support & referral helpline, Persevere PA, is available 24/7 and is a free resource staffed by skilled and compassionate caseworkers available to counsel Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions. The helpline caseworkers can refer callers to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs. Pennsylvanians can contact Persevere PA at 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.

If you or someone you love is in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available by calling 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is staffed 24/7 by trained counselors who can offer free, confidential support. Spanish speakers who need immediate assistance can call 1-888-628-9454. Help can also be accessed through the Crisis Text Line by texting “PA” to 741-741.

The Office of Advocacy and Reform (OAR) was established as part of Governor Wolf’s Reach Out PA initiative in July 2019. To date, OAR has established a plan to build a trauma-informed PennsylvaniaOpens In A New Window by gathering a team of cutting-edge thinkers and practitioners in the field of trauma and how the brain heals from its effects to form a think tank. This volunteer group focused exclusively on setting guidelines and benchmarks for trauma-informed care across the commonwealth. Trauma-informed care needs to be included in the narrative about comprehensive mental wellness services and supports. OAR also hired the state’s first Child Advocate whose role is to help protect the state’s most vulnerable – another goal of the Reach Out PA initiative.

Substance Use Disorder

The holidays may also be difficult for individuals with a substance use disorder or people in recovery, especially if they become stressed by changes to their schedule or daily routine, are not able to see their support network in-person, have strained or non-existent relationships with family members, or are faced with potential triggers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most dangerous time of the year for substance use and alcohol-related deaths are around the holiday months.

“We understand how difficult it is not being together with our loved ones during the holidays. However, it is essential that we stop all gatherings, even small gatherings, to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Ray Barishansky, deputy secretary for health preparedness and community protection at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “We must not lose sight, however, of the opioid epidemic that still rages on in our communities. This is the time to enhance prevention and rescue strategies to be sure this trend does not continue. Together, we can all help each other.”

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs also maintains a toll-free helpline that connects callers looking for treatment options for themselves or a loved one to resources in their community. You can reach the Get Help Now helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The helpline is available 24/7 – including on Thanksgiving Day. An anonymous chat service offering the same information to individuals who may not be comfortable speaking on the phone is also available at www.ddap.pa.gov.

Naloxone is still available to all Pennsylvanians through Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine’s standing order, and carrying this on-hand at all times can be a life-saving action. The Wolf Administration encourages all Pennsylvanians to take advantage of the standing order to obtain Naloxone over the holidays. Learn more about how to obtain naloxone at www.pa.gov/opioidsOpens In A New Window.