Suicide Hotline Boosts US Mental Health Crisis | Pikes Peak Courier


No matter what weighed on you before March 2020, the virus was a stark reminder that things can always get worse. And so it remains.

In the nearly two years since the first U.S. resident fell due to COVID-19, the number of people who say they have experienced a mental health crisis has skyrocketed.

Calls and texts to the Colorado Crisis Services hotline jumped about 20% in the spring of 2020, before reaching an all-time high of over 21,000 this fall.

A year later, an official report confirmed that, like the virus, the gloom was not a fender-bender.

The 2021 Colorado Health Access Survey found that more residents than ever before, especially young adults, reported facing mental health “challenges.” At the same time, fewer people went to the doctor for psychological or physical problems.

“If it hadn’t been, at least in the beginning, to be able to see my clients virtually, I really hate to think about what could have happened – for them not to have service when they needed it most. said Colorado Springs, a licensed social clinic. Jackie Melin, who owns Peak Healing Services.

The effort to raise awareness of mental health needs – and to bring people in crisis to the right voices and the right resources – gained new momentum last week with the announcement that, thanks to federal funding of 282 million dollars, a national 988 suicide hotline should be operational. by July 2022.

Congress designated the hotline last year, alongside plans to transition a 10-digit hotline operated by the Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services into a national network. 24 hour crisis call centers offering free and confidential services. Support.

“Code 988 is a first step towards transforming emergency care in this country, creating a universal entry point to needed emergency services in accordance with access to other emergency medical services,” according to a statement from the HHS.

It is hoped that being able to dial three digits to access immediate mental health help – as we do with emergency services through 911 – will not only reduce suicide rates, but change the way Americans perceive , treat and talk about psychological health.

But that discussion is particularly complex right now, say mental health and grief support workers. Some say that an essential element is missing from global and local conversations, one that would not only help people understand how they are feeling, but direct them to the best provider – or peer group – to help them heal.

“More and more people are asking for help… (but) I think what drives this feeling of crisis is that people don’t know where to go for good grief support,” Sarah said. Lee, chaplain intern and bereavement support specialist in Colorado. springs.

Any port during a storm is better than adrift in a bottomless sea. But while the symptoms of depression and grief may seem similar, they’re not the same – and the “treatment,” Lee said.

Depression is a diagnosable psychological condition, a chemical imbalance. Grieving, however, is a “normal response” to something bad that has happened in life – the loss of a loved one, a way of life.

In other words, a normal response during a pandemic.

“Some families have lost several loved ones. Because, as we know, the virus tends to spread among those family groups and close friends, ”Lee said. “People lost their jobs… and we all lost a lot of what our lives were. “

Losses like this can certainly trigger deep sadness, but they always surface in people whose biochemistry is working as it should, Lee said. For someone who is clinically depressed, the clouds rarely break. The rituals of life – making breakfast, walking the dog – seem impossible.

Those who mourn a loss might still find themselves having lunch with friends and laughing at a joke.

If they still feel comfortable enough going out with friends, sure.

“A big part of this crisis, for a lot of people, is the loss of those social support networks that have helped us make sense of what we are feeling and get through it,” Lee said. “For a lot of people, it was also how they dealt with stress, how they were able to handle a lot of things in their life before the pandemic.”

Colorado Springs did not have enough mental health care providers to meet growing needs before the pandemic.

Ditto for bereavement support care.

One local group, however, hopes their efforts to raise awareness of grief and the far-reaching impacts will help change this landscape.

“The culture we live in now says it’s not okay to talk about it – oh, get over it – but talking about grief is what we need to move it,” said Kathy Sparnins, chief of staff. bereavement support group and founder of Les Voices du Deuil. “I think the grieving support services in Colorado Springs have been pretty hit and miss…” and not quite what she thinks is needed to address what’s going on culturally.

The Sparnins nonprofit is working with local providers – including Melin and the Lydia Hill Institute for Human Resilience at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs – on an anonymous survey seeking information from residents and workers of first line who intervene in the event of a crisis. The questionnaires are expected to go online in January.

Their goal: to assess the level of grief in the community, and ideally to consolidate and build on the wave of support for a self-sustaining Springs Center where groups can meet and heal.

“What everyone is going through right now… is the definition of complicated grief… but it’s still grief,” Sparnins said. “The only way to go through grief is to reconcile it. You don’t get over it. You move in and through.

The first step is to recognize that it is going to end, even though we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The following? Find the right companions who will stimulate us on this journey.

“Everything seems particularly divided right now, but finding that space where we feel comfortable, with people we trust and where we can talk about our grief, is so, so critical,” said Sparnins. “Grief is not depression, but when we don’t address our grief it can become chronic and fundamentally change who we think we are and how we relate to everyone around us. “

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