LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is offering a free, virtual mental health program for Arkansans of all ages.

According to a press release, anyone can get help immediately by calling (501) 526-3563—insurance and referrals are not required. The program, called UAMS AR ConnectNow, is a “comprehensive behavioral health treatment program” created to provide care to all Arkansans dealing with a variety of mental health issues, including substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

UAMS AR ConnectNow is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for initial telephone contact with a triage nurse, who can help schedule services with licensed therapists.

“While UAMS AR ConnectNow is available for anyone to use, we’re actively encouraging parents, teachers and school counselors across the state to share this resource with teenagers and young adults to ensure they have access to the help they need, exactly when they need it,” says Laura Dunn, M.D., director of the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute and chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine. “Taking immediate action to support our young people and their mental health has never been more critical.”

“If someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, it is so important they receive immediate assistance,” said Victoria Spradley, UAMS outreach coordinator for UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute. “UAMS AR ConnectNow allows us to offer that assistance to all Arkansans, especially our youth.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of high school students in the U.S. experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, a 40 percent increase since 2009. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) revealed that 35,000 Arkansans aged 12 to 17 have experienced depression in the last year.

For answers to frequently asked questions, visit faceyourfeelings.org or schedule an appointment by calling (50) 526-3563 or 800-482-9921.