New York, NY – Dialing or texting “9-8-8” is the new way to quickly connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors.
“New York and the nation are experiencing a mental health crisis compounded – but not caused – by the pandemic,” New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams recently said in response to 988 gaining federal approval for use. The objective of the 988 number is to ease access to support services. Calling those services vital, Williams stresses that 988 itself “is not intended as a comprehensive outlet for mental health emergencies,” and it is not a replacement for other crisis numbers that dispatch rapid responses.
The current mental health crisis is far from a new phenomena and it is certainly clear that tensions are running high. But putting aside politics and Mayor Bill De Blasio’s questionable support of 988 – it is understandable why so many people remain unsure about what happens next. Just last week, Governor Kathy Hochcul declared a “disaster emergency” in the State of New York due to the rise of the new omicron variant of Covid-19.
It might appear that as soon as we find a semblance of comfort, another announcement takes place or another variant is discovered. We have yet to be free from the yoke of Covid-19. We still need to address the public concerns around mental health and personal wellbeing.
There are other numbers to call, such as (800) 273 – TALk (8255), or you could go online to www.projectextreme.org or call them at (877) 529-8182. Another website is www.headspace.com or www.samsha.gov
The need for mental health support does not stop here. Like organized labor’s call for unity – people need to work together. Which is why it is important to utilize educational programs that can be helpful and potentially lifesaving. There are training programs that are useful in either emotional or mental health emergencies.
Programs such as Mental Health First Aid training where workers, friends and colleagues can become “Mental Health First Aiders.” However, similar to the support of numbers such as 9-8-8, Mental Health First Aid training is not a replacement for professional support.
The same way a CPR class does not mean the certified person can perform open-heart surgery, Mental Health First Aiders are not professionals, but merely certified people trained to be supportive in a crisis until professional help arrives or the crisis itself is settled.
I am a Mental Health First Aider and instructor. I have volunteered for different sucide prevention programs and I have been deployed to hospitals after someone has overdosed. I have seen what happens when mental health challenges go unaddressed. I was aware of the grim statistics before the pandemic, which were already astronomical. Fast forward to now and the historic times we find ourselves in. Add the stress of Covid, add the financial stressors, the losses, the constant arguments and political debates – and it is no wonder why the number of mental health tragedies are on the rise.
Rest assured, the only way to overcome something is to go through it, and the only way through times like this is if we are unified and get there together!
Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on thewrittenaddiction.com, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Well-being and DEI Content Provider, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate. Ben can be reached at email@example.com