WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The pandemic is blamed for taking more than just a physical toll on the well-being of our nation. It’s also caused a mental strain that’s magnified an already-serious problem in society.

The struggle is real for many Pennsylvanians feeling the mental strain caused by the pandemic. But officials in Harrisburg want you to know that free help is available from trained professionals to help you deal with the struggle.

There’s no denying the COVID crisis has had a major impact on our lives. The strong emotions it triggers can leave you feeling overburdened if you lack the necessary coping skills. It’s why the Department of Human Services wants you to know about a free resource called Persevere PA Support and Referral Helpline.

“Callers will be able to speak with staff who are empathetic and trained in trauma-informed principles to help you talk through whatever you’re facing,” said acting Secretary Meg Snead, PA Department of Human Services.

The loss of loved ones, job changes and income insecurity can be overwhelming.

Calling Persevere PA Support and Referral Helpline at 1-855-284-2494 can serve as an important first step to assess your needs, discuss potential next steps and point you in the direction of local help.

“No matter what you’re feeling or what you’re going through, you do not have to go through it alone,” said Snead.

Help is also available from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office for young people. That help is called Safe2Say Something.

“We launched this program in response actually to mass shootings and violence that too often happened on campuses and schools across the country,” said Josh Shapiro, (D) PA attorney general.

The barely two-year-old app has helped shine a light on students’ concern for their peers’ state of mind, or cyberbullying, or even lacking a school lunch.

“We found that through the more than 50,000 tips that we received in the first year or so of Safe to Say being operational, the vast majority of them were about mental health not the threat of violence in school,” said Shapiro.

Attorney General Shapiro says it’s important to respond to mental health concerns and provide the help both young and adult Pennsylvanians need and are asking for.

The state held this media briefing on Wednesday as part of mental health awareness month.

Mental health resources: