RIO GRANDE VALLEY  – The UTRGV Psychology Clinic will provide a new, confidential phone service called a “warmline,” to help community members find support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The warmline will be a free and brief counseling telephone service for individuals experiencing emotional and mental distress related to the pandemic. It also will provide early intervention with the support that can help prevent a crisis.

The phone service will be staffed by UTRGV mental health clinicians and Ph.D. clinical psychology students. All students will be supervised by faculty members.

The need for a warmline stemmed from conversations Dr. Cynthia Cavazos-Gonzalez, director of the UTRGV Psychology Clinic and associate professor of practice, had with other mental health providers who were receiving calls from people asking for sessions to help cope with the anxiety they were experiencing because of the pandemic.

“These were people that seemed they just needed to talk to someone, and needed to have some kind of support,” she said. “And I thought it would be an opportunity for us, as a clinic, to step up and provide that kind of warm, supportive help to people who are emotionally distressed from being quarantined, with anxiety from not knowing if they may have contracted the disease.”

The main focus of the warmline is to prevent crisis and provide a lifeline for people to talk to someone. Gonzalez said the service can help prevent people from deteriorating physically, emotionally and mentally, especially during this global crisis.

“When you are overwhelmed, your body has a physiological response. Sometimes people may become ill from other things because their immune system is being compromised by emotional, mental distress,” she said.

The warmline will provide callers with resources and effective types of interventions, including stress management and mindfulness techniques, relaxation exercises, behavioral interventions for sleep and appetite issues and psychoeducational counseling.

The service is open to the RGV community, including students, healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers.

Gonzalez said that if they do notice the caller needs more assistance than the warmline can provide, they will direct them to local mental health community centers.

The UTRGV Psychology Clinic does provide tele-mental health appointments. The phone number for the warmline is (956) 665-8800.

Hours of operation are:

Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Friday, 9 a.m. to noon.

Visit the UTRGV Psychology Clinic for more information.