Crisis Hotlines Offer Glimpse Of Mental Health In The Pandemic : Shots – Health News – dineshr

Posted: May 4, 2020 at 9:53 am

This post was added by Alex Diaz-Granados

A spike in texts and calls to crisis hotlines reflects Americans growing anxiety about the coronavirus and its impact on their lives.

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Richard Bailey/Getty Images

A spike in texts and calls to crisis hotlines reflects Americans growing anxiety about the coronavirus and its impact on their lives.

Richard Bailey/Getty Images

Normally, Laura Mayer helps the most acutely suicidal callers find the nearest hospital emergency room. But in a pandemic, that has become a crisis counselors advice of last resort.

Its a difficult decision because we do know that by sending them into an overburdened health care system, they may or may not get the treatment that they need, says Mayer, who is director of PRS CrisisLink in Oakton, Va., which also takes calls for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The resources may or may not be there, and were exposing them to the illness.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is available.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Text the Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor 24/7 in the U.S. and Canada.

Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

Call the National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine at 1-800-950-6264.

So instead, counselors are devoting more time to each caller, offering ad hoc therapy and coaxing them to talk through their pain. These days, that pain often has many sources: lost jobs, severed relationships and sick family.

The type of call and the seriousness of the call is very different this year than it was in previous years, Mayer says. Theres environmental issues, internal issues, family issues. Its never one thing.

Americas crisis centers and hotlines are themselves in crisis. As people grapple with fear, loneliness and grief, on a grand scale, those stresses are showing up at crisis hotlines. Not only are the needs greater, but their clients problems are more acute and complex and offer a window into the emotional struggles Americans face.

Across the board, hotlines of all kinds are reporting increases in volume.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration saw a fivefold increase at its National Helpline in March. The Crisis Text Line says its volumes are up 40% in the pandemic, to about 100,000 conversations a month.

Volunteer counselors and good Samaritans are responding by lining up to help.

But Mayer says the heaviness takes its toll. Those offering this kind of support end up needing support themselves.

This illness is starting to impact each of our crisis workers and counselors themselves personally, she says. So everyone is kind of a client right now, and thats been really challenging.

Nancy Lublin, CEO and co-founder of the Crisis Text Line, says she is bracing for sustained need. This echo of the physical virus, the mental health echo, we fear its going to last a very long time and that the intensity will remain, she says.

Over the last two months, the focal point of the emotional pain has shifted, she says. Initially, the spike in traffic was over anxiety about the virus itself. That shifted to complaints of isolation. Now, texters talk of depression and grief.

So weve doubled the number of conversations that are about grief, and there the top two words that we see are grandma and grandpa, she says.

And its no longer just young people texting. Adults are complaining of loneliness, sexual abuse and eating disorders.

As the quarantines go on and continue, were seeing its the people over the age of 35 who are increasing at a higher percentage of our volume, Lublin says. For the first time, were seeing people over the age of 60 texting us.

Texting is an ideal medium, she says, for those stuck at home with no personal space: You dont have to find a quiet space where no one else can hear you.

And for some, that might be the only form of escape. The text line has seen a 74% increase in references to domestic violence. We see words like trapped [and] hurt, says Lublin.

Many shelters have shut down, and some of those in-person centers, including the Salvation Army in Philadelphia, now rely on their own hotlines instead.

Arielle Curry, director of the Salvation Armys anti-human trafficking program, says many of her clients cant afford cell phones and have lost touch; those who remain in contact are in dire straits, searching for a shorter supply of money or drugs, and are often suicidal. Curry says addressing those acute emotional needs by phone is frustrating; sometimes she doesnt even know where they are and cant send help to intervene.

You cant comfort someone and look them in their eyes and support them face-to-face, she says. That makes it hard, Curry says, not to feel helpless and hopeless herself.

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Crisis Hotlines Offer Glimpse Of Mental Health In The Pandemic : Shots - Health News - dineshr

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