The Lead

‘It’s OK to not be OK,’: Wolf admin. highlights mental health, substance use resources for holiday season

By: - December 22, 2021 3:08 pm

(c) flowertiare –

The leaders of four Pennsylvania state agencies met virtually Wednesday to remind the Pennsylvanians who need them of mental health and substance use disorder resources available this holiday season. 

In a virtual briefing with reporters Wednesday, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith said that the holiday season can be “overwhelming and triggering” for those with substance use disorder. 

“This is a joyous time of year, but it can also be a difficult time of year for many Pennsylvanians for many different reasons,” Smith said. “During this holiday season, it is important to remind folks who are struggling with grief, anxiety, isolation or battling a substance use disorder that no one is ever alone; there are always resources available to help.”

Smith said that those with substance use disorder in need of treatment or recovery resources can call the state’s help hotline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357) – anytime.

“The hotline is available every day, including Christmas Eve and Day and New Year’s Eve and Day,” Smith said. “Please don’t hesitate to reach out and use this helpline. Whether you are in recovery, seeking treatment for the first time, or need information on how you can help or support a loved one’s journey, there is always someone at the other end of the line to help you navigate through available resources throughout the holiday season and beyond.”

Sharing his own story of grief and loss,  Dan Jurman, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Advocacy and Reform, reminded Pennsylvanians: “It’s OK to not be OK.”

“The circumstances of life can feel overwhelming,” Jurman added, noting the ongoing pandemic, political unrest and an unprecedented amount of loss experienced during 2021. 

“The holiday season comes with expectations of joy and happiness, but that is not everyone’s experience with this time of year. Perhaps this year especially, the need to be trauma-informed throughout the holidays is critical. 2021 has been a time of great stress, fear, and grief for so many,” Jurman said. 

“We want to encourage Pennsylvania residents to be mindful of additional holiday stressors and potentially difficult sensitivities from past and present experiences that can have a deep and pervasive impact on people this season.” 

Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other mental health challenges can contact the Support & Referral Helpline toll-free, 24/7 at 1-855-284-2494.

Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres highlighted the depression and isolation many senior citizens have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“During the holiday season, if any older adult is struggling emotionally or mentally, we want them to understand that they are not alone and that there are many resources to support them,” Torres said, highlighting the state’s PA Link program, which connects older adults and individuals with disabilities to support services such as telehealth visits and check-in calls. 

In her closing remarks, Smith said that if viewers take away one thing from their collective comments it should be that “you are not alone.”

“Please know that resources are available to help all of you,” Smith said.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.