Within hours of being launched, the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists’ toll-free hotline began blowing up with calls, as the population struggles to adjust to the ‘new normal’ caused by COVID-19.

The virus has confined the majority of the population to their homes while Government trumpets calls warning for social distancing to prevent further spread.

While the home is mostly comfortable, the association PRO J’elle Valdez said it is important to recognise that self-quarantining can be stressful, especially when there is a continuous flow of new information about the virus.

“Because of all of the information that is available and people are receiving regarding the pandemic, it can create various reactions such as anxiety and depression and in some cases hysteria,” Valdez told Guardian Media.

Recognising the population’s need for emotional support at this time, Valdez said the TTAP had operationalised 18 telephone numbers, all manned by mental health professionals. There are at least four psychologists per region with the exception of Tobago, which only has two. There is also a hotline available for persons who speak Spanish.

Valdez, who is manning the southern region, said by midday yesterday there were more than 20 calls in her area.

“They are not handling the situation well. They don’t know what might happen with work as they might have had pre-existing conditions,” she said.

Valdez said understandably, the population wants to keep abreast of the coronavirus situation in T&T. However, she said the “voracious appetite for information” can easily consume a person’s mind.