Mental health help for residents affected by turmoil

Devante Hill of Baltimore makes a heart with his hands after he was hit with pepper spray after someone threw a bottle at police in the Freddie Gray aftermath.

The constant images and reports of a city in strife have been unsettling. And as Baltimore continues to experience the aftermath of both the death of Freddie Gray and the demonstrations and riots that followed, the need for healing is abundantly clear to mental health experts.

Seeking the help of a trained mental health care provider is of the utmost importance, according to Shreya Hessler, a licensed psychologist based in Bel Air.


"Dialogue about your stressors and about how to manage your emotions is really important," Hessler said. "Being able to do so in a safe environment — a therapeutic environment — can be very helpful."

Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen thinks that the healing process could take months, maybe even years for some. On Wednesday, the Baltimore City Health Department announced it would be working with schools, churches and community organizations to provide counseling services to communities impacted by recent events.


"We don't want to offer these resources for a day or a week," Wen said. "We realize they will have mental health needs for months or years. These are long-term health resources we can offer."

Whether you're a parent struggling to explain the events in Baltimore to your child, a teen who feels that they have no voice, an adult unnerved by police brutality or a business owner attempting to recover from property loss, there are resources for you to address your pain.

The Pro Bono Counseling Project

110 West Road #202, Towson

410-825-1001; 877-323-5800; 301-805-8191

The Pro Bono Counseling Project offers free therapy to those in need. In operation for the past 24 years, clients — families, couples or individuals — are matched with therapists in order to get them through a tough time.

"Our clients generally have limited resources and limited access to care," said Barbara Anderson, executive director. "So many of those people who were directly affected by what happened in Baltimore should be our clients. These people have so few resources and that's why they are so distressed. We want to help. "


Sheppard Pratt Therapy Referral Service


Available Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

This free service, which has been in existence for more than 30 years, matches you with the most appropriate treatment for individual needs.

"People can call and express whatever concerns are leading them to feel they need services," according to Bonnie Katz, vice president of business development and support operations at Sheppard Pratt Health System. "Staff will refer them to resources within our system or in the community, based on whatever insurance coverage they have."


The referral service is about linking people with the services they need, according to Katz.

"A lot of the time they don't know what services would benefit them," she said. "The folks will give them a sense of what the resources are."

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline

1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746

Available 24 hours a day


The helpline, which is free and geared toward those experiencing signs of distress following a disaster, connects people with a trained crisis counselor.

"They are the federal agency that is the authority related to mental health and substance abuse," said Katz of Sheppard Pratt. "A number of instances in the past couple of decades has helped them to develop a set of recommendations. We've found them to be useful."

Katz said this resource is ideal for someone who has recently experienced a crisis.

Baltimore Crisis Response, Inc. (BCRI)



7:00 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week

The organization has served Baltimore City for more than 20 years. The mission of the organization is to provide "timely and effective crisis intervention and addictions treatment services in the least restrictive environment possible," according to its literature.

BCRI is geared toward people who are "having an acute mental health emergency," Wen said.

Behavioral Health System Baltimore

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410-637-1900, dial option 1


This free program assists families and individuals in setting up mental health appointments.

"It helps patients and families get one-on-one appointments with health professionals," Wen said.

Trauma & Mental Health Resources

This newly launched program allows leaders of organizations —religious institutions, community groups, and schools — to seek help for their members, said Wen.

Under the free program, these groups are being asked to call 311 or send an email to to request counseling services and to facilitate meetings where the professionals can provide assistance for multiple individuals at one time, Wen said.