When we teach Mental Health First Aid and we get to the section on supporting someone experiencing thoughts of suicide, we always take a pause. On the curriculum’s slide, it instructs our class attendees to call 911 and our instructors know we can’t just stop there.
Too often we hear of families and friends who reach out to 911 for help during a mental health crisis, only to have the person they are supporting end up dead. Recently I read an article of five mothers who made that call – all of whom are now grieving the loss of their child (https://www.insider.com/mothers-called-911-sons-in-crisis-shot-them-dead-2020-10). I have three sons, and my heart broke for them when I read their stories.
I know when I teach a Mental Health First Aid course, I’m trying to encourage accessing professional help. Lots of different kinds - maybe therapy or substance use services or someone to help with a crisis. And yet, I feel a sort of desperation when I encourage accessing that care because I know how broken our system is for so many.
We know there are not enough multi-lingual, multi-cultural providers of mental and behavioral health care. We know that too often, care can be difficult to find or too expensive or too confusing even if insurance will cover it. We know we have shortages in rural areas. We have a broken system and at a time in this nation when we simply cannot afford it. We know that rates of overdose, suicide, anxiety and depression are going up during COVID-19. We need a system prepared to manage the secondary health impacts of the pandemic – not one that makes it worse.
In 2020, legislation was passed that will bring a new, universal crisis number to our country in July, 2022: 988 (https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/16/politics/fcc-national-suicide-hotline/index.html ). 988 will directly link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and will offer an easy to remember option when seeking support during a mental health crisis. We know that cities and counties are investing in mobile mental health units and other types of crisis response that do not rely on law enforcement alone. We know there are mental and behavioral health workforce investments being made to diversify the workforce, and to ensure that all people who need help can access it equitably.
The help cannot come fast enough. It still isn’t everything we need and everything we want, but the movement is in the right direction. Each of us plays a role in advocating for the changes we need to keep everyone safe.
If you want to access resources, check out our Cypress resource page. We are always looking for resources that meet the diversity of the people we serve, so check back often because we update the page regularly.
And if you are feeling unsafe or if you are in crisis – please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or Text MHFA to 741741. We want you to be here tomorrow.