Gov. Brian Kemp announces a new mental health app. AJC/Alyssa Pointer.

Georgia launches new app for mental health counseling

State health officials launched a new mobile app Thursday that offers free and confidential access to people suffering from mental illness, substance abuse and other issues.

The My GCAL app, which works on Apple and Android phones, caters to younger Georgians who are more comfortable sending texts than picking up the phone.

It’s run by the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, which has long operated a full-time hotline for people in need of mental health treatment. But officials worry that they’re missing some Georgians, particularly those under 25, who would rather chat online.

“We know that youths and adolescents are more likely to text than to make a phone call,” said Judy Fitzgerald, the commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities. “With this, you get to decide whether you want to call or text — and when you do there’s a licensed, caring professional on the other line.”

Gov. Brian Kemp said the need for this service was sharpened this week during visits to two high schools — one in suburban Gwinnett County, the other in rural Dawson County — to talk with educators and health officials about improving mental health care.

He said he was told by one administrator during that visit that “I’m glad we are doing this before there’s a tragedy.”

“We are trying to be proactive,” Kemp added. “We need kids to know that it’s OK to text if you need help. We have to remove that stigma.”

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