The holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, a time when we get together with friends and family. But this year with the pandemic, that’s basically impossible for many.

Not surprisingly, with just over a week before Christmas, a growing number of New Jersey residents, especially those who are living alone, are struggling with depression brought on by loneliness, stress and anxiety.

Gov. Phil Murphy said for some this has become too much to bear but help is available for free.

Any state resident can call 1-866-202-HELP for free confidential support. The toll-free hotline is available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. It is staffed by trained specialists.

People can also text "NJ HOPE" to 51684.

For the deaf and hard of hearing, help is available through ACCESS at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson.

For assistance provided in sign language via video-phone, call 973-870-0677 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Murphy said if you are feeling stressed and depressed, it’s important to get support and not keep everything bottled up.

“We know that the holidays in a normal year can be stressful,” he said. “But this year even more so as so many of you are making arrangements that don’t include family and friends who you yearn to see. Remember folks, the help is there. If you need a break and you need somebody to talk to reach out and make the call.”

The governor noted the pandemic has caused more stress in New Jersey and across the country than we’ve ever seen, perhaps even more than after the Pearl Harbor attack at the start of World War Two in 1941. If Garden State residents need some help, there is nothing whatsoever to feel embarrassed or ashamed about.

In fact, said Murphy, it’s probably a sign of strength to ask for a bit of counseling.

"Let’s all keep each other in our prayers right now because this is an extraordinarily stressful period that we’re in," he said.

The governor said this service is being made possible through a partnership between the state Department of Human Services and the Mental Health Association in New Jersey.

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