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Mental health calls for service have increased 300%, many of those affected are veterans, doctors say

It’s suicide prevention month and many of our veterans have been greatly affected by the pandemic and are in need of help.

HOUSTON — It’s suicide prevention month and a local center that offers mental health services said it has seen a 300% increase in calls from people needing help. A group greatly affected and in need of that help is our local veterans.

"This year, I attempted to take my life due to PTSD and depression and feeling sorry for myself," Army veteran Shane Ehrlich said.

Ehrlich said mental health problems are a daily struggle for him.

"My kids call me the hulk but it's kind of scary when they look up to you like that and you feel weak and don’t want to tell them you are weak," Ehrlich said.

He said he feels fortunate he’s been able to find people that have been willing to help. Even other veterans groups like Reinforcing Veterans Houston.

"To help other veterans that may be in a low point catch them before they get to the lowest," Navy veteran Jehovian Parish, with Reinforcing Veterans Houston, said.

Ehrlich isn't alone. Doctors at UTHealth said the pandemic and the political climate have exacerbated mental health problems for many. They said the Trauma Resilience Center is getting 300% more calls.

"That translates to several thousand more calls, about 5,000 more calls, this year than last year and we can’t handle that number of calls," Dr. Ron Acierno, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, said.

The problem for some is they lost out on social interactions because of the pandemic.

"Social connection is everything it is the most important thing we can do to protect the people who have been exposed to stressors," Acierno said.

That's why experts said the best thing you can do is reach out for help and make those connections. Ehrlich said a simple phone call or text message can really go a long way.

"Let go of the tough guy act and know that people are here for us. You are not alone we are not alone," Ehrlich said.

If you or anyone you know is in need of help you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 800-273-8255 or you can text the hotline at 741741.

You can also reach out to UT Physicians here.