07 Dec 988 – An Important Resource
I started working at Family Practice Associates as a therapist over 15 years ago. I was and am so lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do as a part of this great care providing organization. But things have really changed since the beginning with my work and in particular, the amount of availability I have to see patients. For many years as we were building up my part of the practice and helping people get used to the idea of seeing a therapist and MD at the same office, I was often able to get people in to see me in a relatively short amount of time. You might call on Monday and see me later that week and sometimes even later that day. Certainly, by the next week there would be a slot open. That’s not the case anymore.
I hope that me getting much busier has something to do with providing quality care and the word getting around but probably the biggest factor has been the global pandemic that started in 2020. They (whoever “they” are) say that the pandemic created among other things a mental health crisis in America and even around the world. I think that is true. The elevated levels level of unrest, unease, and unpredictability coupled with downright fear and staggering losses have hit repeatedly at the core of our ability to cope on our own. Another more positive factor that increased the numbers for mental health providers has been the acceptance and normalization of telehealth therapy. Now, as long as you have a decent internet connection, you can see me from the safety and comfort of your home. All this has now changed from getting to see me later this week to more likely sometime next month. Slots do open up so don’t hesitate to call if you need to but that’s just to say that there’s a lot of work to be done.
Frankly, this is double-edged for me. I’m glad to have the opportunity to see and hopefully provide care for a lot of people but I also know that sometimes in a mental, emotional, relational health crisis, a month away can seem like a long time. As we speak, FPA is working to make more care available and hopefully sometime in the next several months, that will become a reality. But even with that, sometimes you need help quickly. That is why I am so glad that what was previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now called the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline) is now available everywhere in the United States by simply dialing 988 on your cell phone. Everyone knows 911 and I think it was a brilliant idea to make this number similar and thus equally memorable for those in crisis.
Calling 988 will connect you to a counselor who has been trained to listen, understand how your problems are affecting you, provide support, and connect you to other resources if necessary. All it takes to make this work is your realization that you are in trouble and the courage the call the number. After that, you will be helped through whatever the process needs to be. Believe me, knowing this service is available and so easily accessible is a comfort to me and all the overworked mental health providers out there who are trying to see as many as possible as soon as possible. I hope it is a comfort to you as well and that you will remember the service is available to you or a loved one any time of any day. If you need it, PLEASE call 988!