COVID-related domestic violence and mental illness spike in Vernon, mayor says

Vernon. Mayor Howard Burrell said the Sussex County Division of Health now has certified disaster response crisis counselors, who are trained in psychological first aid and crisis counseling. This can help those experiencing fear and anxiety about the virus, economic uncertainty, and isolation, as well as essential workers on the front line of the pandemic.

Vernon /
20 Apr 2020 | 03:29

Vernon mayor Howard Burrell says the community is experiencing a spike in domestic violence calls and incidents. In addition, he said, Vernon law enforcement has been dealing with a "significant spike" in mental and emotional health problems.

At Vernon's April 13 council meeting, Burrell said experts attribute these spikes to fear and anxiety about the virus, economic uncertainty about job losses, and the isolation that comes with stay-at-home orders. "All of these have caused overwhelming and strong negative emotions in both adults and children," he said.

In addition, he said, "there is an increase in the levels of stress, mental and emotional problems that are being experienced by first responders and other front-line workers, which are considered to be 'essential workers.'"

"These individuals know that their jobs not only expose them to a higher than normal risk of getting the coronavirus, but they also greatly fear the possibility that they will then take this virus home and pass it on to their family members," he said.

Isolation is "foreign to and not mentally and emotionally healthy for most of us," even though "we know and understand that the practices of social distancing and staying at home are so far the only proven way to reduce/prevent the spread of this virus," said Burrell.

He said the Sussex County Division of Health now has certified disaster response crisis counselors, who are trained in psychological first aid and crisis counseling. They are certified through the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services Disaster and Terrorism Branch, along with the Mental Health Association of New Jersey and the Certification Board of New Jersey.

These counselors may be reached through the health division's COVID-19 Hotline at 973-579-9488. Volunteers are also available to answer other questions related to COVID-19. The Hotline’s hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On March 30 the Hoptacong Police also reported a "dramatic rise" in domestic violence.

"As businesses shut down and we dive deeper into quarantine, I understand that cabin fever is starting to set in for some. I also understand that dealing with family sometimes leads to increased tension," said a Hoptacong Police Facebook post. "We understand that the future may seem uncertain or bleak with the COVID-19 virus spreading," the post continued. "Indeed, life will become more difficult as we move forward."

Hotline numbers:
Sussex County Division of Health Disaster Response Crisis Counselors: 973-579-9488
New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-572-SAFE (7233)
New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-601-7200
Women’s Referral Central Hotline: 1-800-322-8092
New Jersey Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) Hotline: 1-877-218-9133