State officials, including the governor, are urging Iowans who’re stressed or depressed to go online for free help.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports that from March through September, 319 Iowans died of suicide, a rate slightly higher than the two previous year. Governor Reynolds says anecdotal information suggests people are waiting longer than usual to seek help and are often already in crisis mode when they do.

The state has used a federal grant to hire more than 100 staff who provide free counseling through appointments scheduled on the “Covid Recovery Iowa” website.

“We offer free personal counseling. We also have personal support, engagement activities. We are finding there’s been a lot of social isolation,” says Karen Hyatt, an emergency mental health specialist in the Iowa Department of Human Services. “We know that there have been older adults, some in nursing homes who haven’t been able to get out of their rooms really since May, some since March, so we’ve put together a package of things.”

But Hyatt says the pandemic has exacerbated already anxious times for many Iowans.

“We just came off a natural disaster along the Missouri River for the flooding. We have farmers who are in drought. We have the derecho and many, many counties affected by that,” Hyatt says, “and so what this really has become and what we’re hearing is the economic and mental health disaster on top of the physical.”

The federal grant means every Iowan of every age is eligible for counseling. The website is There’s also a toll free phone number — 1-844-775-9276 — to call for help.