Now this is how you respond to a tragedy.
UnitedHealthcare and Optum, two health benefits companies of UnitedHealth Group, are offering free mental health services for anyone affected by the shooting in Orlando that killed 49 people over the weekend. The resources are available to anyone in the country, whether they are insured by the group or not.
Optum will operate a 24/7 helpline, and users can speak to a trained mental health professional for as long as they need. Individuals can call toll-free at 866-342-6892. The company is also providing access to their benefits site, which contains mental health information like professional tips on how to manage anxiety.
"The helpline can be an easy, accessible way for people to reach out," William Bonfield, chief medical officer of OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions, told The Huffington Post. "It can provide support, an opportunity to talk and help a person decide if mental health treatment may be helpful."
The service may serve as somewhat of a financial reprieve. Affordability is one of the top reasons many people don't seek professional treatment, according to a 2013 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The helpline could be a good gateway to more in-depth mental health services and a way to manage any feelings that arise in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Experts agree that clinical support is the best way to manage overwhelming grief and anxiety. If the events that unfolded in Orlando are beginning to interfere with your everyday life, mental health professionals recommend reaching out to helplines like Optum's. You can also text message the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or check the International Association for Suicide Prevention for resources if you're in distress.
"We tend to think these feelings are going to go away on their own," psychologist Mary Alvord previously told HuffPost, pointing out that isn't always the case.
Optum's move is a generous way to address a necessary issue that often arises after tragedy. Research shows acts of terror and hate crimes contribute to mental health issues. Even following the devastating news in the media can take a toll on someone's psychological wellbeing.
The bottom line, Bonfield says, is that offering complimentary mental health services to people affected by such a horrendous tragedy is just the right thing to do in this case.
"When a horrific event occurs, it’s normal to have very strong feelings such as anger, sadness, fear and helplessness," he explained. "Talking through these reactions with caring professionals can be an important source of support during difficult times."
Yet another example of how human kindness can help ease a terrible trauma. Well done.