Since the start of the Middle East crisis, calls to a national mental health hotline have increased between 30 percent and 40 percent as American workers increasingly exhibit stress brought on by outside events.

"Most callers aren't aware that personal anxiety is increased by world tension," said Ronald W. Moreland, president of Managed Health Network, which provides a 24-hour emotional help "Warm Line" to more than 2.5 million American workers and their families."Calls following the evening news have escalated to where we've added additional staff at that time of day," he said.

Moreland, whose firm provides toll-free telephone counseling services serving both white- and blue-collar workers employed by some 370 employers nationwide, said there has been a significant increase in the number of calls for help from people from the Middle East, now living in the United States.

"Significantly, there has been over the past month more calls dealing with attempted suicide," he said.

Moreland said callers requesting a counselor who can speak Farsi, the language of Iran, are up nearly 30 percent over the past six weeks.

The company official said that many Middle East natives report increasing stress in their relationships with Americans, believing that they are being blamed for the crisis in the Persian Gulf.

"There clearly is a signficant upswing (in calls) after the evening news," Moreland said.

"There are a lot of calls from spouses for those overseas. Their husbands have been called up (by the military). They are concerned about the wages they no longer receive and there are problems with bills, loans and mortgages."

Moreland said financial problems are exacerbated because "most people tend to live over their heads - on plastic."

Moreland, whose firm provides the mental health counseling for such firms as American Express, Pepsico, Hunt-Wesson, GTE, the Disney Co. and Rockwell, as well as cities, school districts and other employers, said many spouses are feeling stress because they are left to cope with rearing the children while their mates are in the Middle East.

"We try to get them into a dialogue about specific problems and refer them to specialists in such areas as alcohol and chemical dependency," he said. "Some who are left alone for the first time have trouble even balancing a checkbook."

Subscriber-callers to the Managed Health Network hotline maintain their anonymity, Moreland said, but callers are asked to identify their employer.

"We do provide quarterly reports to clients (employers) and break down all these things (problems), he said.

"If there is a serious chemical abuse problem or an indication of widespread depression or stress, we try to help employers get to the root causes of these problems and we may train company supervisors to respond to the workers' problems.