Suicide Hotline Raises Awareness About America’s Mental Crisis | Local news

Whatever weighed you down before March 2020, the virus was a strong reminder that it can always get worse. And it stays that way.

In the nearly two years since the first US citizen contracted COVID-19, the number of people who say they experienced a mental crisis has skyrocketed.

Calls and texts to the Colorado Crisis Services hotline rose about 20% in the spring of 2020 before hitting an all-time high of more than 21,000 in the fall.

A year later, an official report confirmed that like the virus, the desolation wasn’t a slip up.

The 2021 Colorado Health Access Survey found that more residents than ever, especially young adults, reported experiencing mental “challenges”. At the same time, fewer went to the doctor because of mental or physical complaints.

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“If I couldn’t see my clients virtually, at least initially, I hate thinking about what could have happened – for them to have no services when they needed them most,” said Colorado Springs Licensed Clinical Social Worker Jackie Melin, who owns Peak Healing Services.

An attempt to raise awareness of mental health needs – and to give the right voices and resources to people in crisis – ended last week with the announcement that a nationwide 988 suicide, thanks to federal funding of $ 282 million -Hotline should be set up, get new momentum by July 2022.

Congress last year set the phone abbreviations, along with the plan, a 10-digit hotline operated by the Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health of the Department of Health and Human Services into a national network of 24 hours -Convert crisis call centers that offer free and confidential offers assistance.

“The 988 code is a first step in transforming emergency services in this country by creating a universal access point to the crisis services needed in line with access to other emergency services,” said a statement from HHS.

Hopefully the ability to dial three digits for instant mental health help – like we do the 911 calls to 911 – will not only lower suicide rates but also change the way how Americans see, treat, and talk about mental health.

But that discussion is particularly complex right now, say mental health and grief counseling staff. Some say that there is a critical component missing in the big picture and grassroots conversations, a component that would not only help people understand their feelings, but also relate them to the best provider – or a group of their peers – passes on to help them heal.

“More and more people are asking for help … (but) I think the reason this feeling of crisis is that people don’t know where to find good support for grief,” said Sarah Lee, a counseling intern and grief counseling specialist in Colorado Springs.

Any port during a storm is better than floating in a bottomless sea. But while the symptoms of depression and grief may look similar, they are not the same – and neither is the “treatment,” said Lee.

Depression is a diagnosable psychological condition, a chemical imbalance. However, grief is a “normal reaction” to something bad that happened in life – the loss of a loved one, a way of life.

In other words, a normal response to pandemic times.

“Some families have lost several relatives. Because as we know, the virus is usually transmitted between these close family and friends, ”said Lee. “People have lost jobs … and we have all lost large parts of our previous lives.”

Such losses can certainly bring deep sadness, but it still rides the 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 – feel impossible.

Still, those mourning a loss may find themselves to have lunch with friends and laugh at a joke.

If they’re still comfortable enough to go out with friends, that is.

“A big part of this crisis, for many people, is the loss of those social support networks that have helped us understand and overcome our feelings,” said Lee. “For many people it was also dealing with stress, dealing with many things in their lives before the pandemic.”

Prior to the pandemic, Colorado Springs did not have enough psychiatric care providers to meet growing demand.

Ditto for the bereavement support.

However, one local group hopes that their efforts to raise awareness of grief and its far-reaching effects will help transform this landscape.

“The culture we live in says it’s not okay to talk about it – oh, just get over it – but talking about grief is what we need to move it,” said Kathy Sparnins, leader of a grief support group and founder of Voices of Grief. “I think Colorado Springs bereavement services were pretty random …” and nowhere near what they think is needed to address the events on a cultural level.

Sparnins’ nonprofit is partnering with local vendors – including Melin and the Lydia Hill Institute for Human Resilience at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs – on an anonymous survey to gain insights from both residents and frontline workers who intervene in the event of a crisis. The questionnaires should go live in January.

Their goal: to assess the extent of grief in the community and ideally to consolidate and build on support for a stand-alone Springs center where groups can meet and heal.

“What everyone is going through … that’s the definition of complicated grief … but it’s still grief,” said Sparnins. “The only way we can overcome grief is to make up for it. You can’t get over it. You move in and through it. “

The first step is to acknowledge that even if we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, it will end.

The next? To find the right companions who spur us on on this path.

“At the moment everything feels like it is particularly divided, but it is so important to find a space where we are comfortable, with people we can trust and where we can talk about our grief”, said Sparnins. “Grief isn’t depression, but if we don’t address our grief, it can become chronic and change the person we thought we were and fundamentally change our relationships with everyone around us.”

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