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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will soon be 988

  • 1.  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will soon be 988

    Posted Mar 14, 2022 10:09
    There is a mental health crisis in our country, all the while as socioeconomic and health inequities persist and become more polarized for communities of color, immigrants and those who belong to historically marginalized identities. Suicide is on the rise, and communities of color are those who are the least likely to receive treatment, and when they do, there is a heightened risk of violent escalation when there is police involvement.

    Many of us have had the experience of working with clients who were in crisis, and know the value of what social workers can bring to coordinate services and stabilize critical situations. I want to share a story from many years ago, when one of my clients was being threatened with eviction and became really stressed out and began drinking again, and he threatened to jump off the building he was living in. I came to his apartment to accompany him to his appointment to his Legal Aid attorney, and found myself having to talk him down from his window. His neighbors had already called the police, and I immediately had to jump between him and the cops, explaining that I was his social worker. My client was Black, and although the cops had not drawn their guns yet, I saw they had their hands on their holsters. I somehow managed to keep my nerve and calmed everyone down, and I think it was because my client trusted me that he finally voluntarily signed himself into a psychiatric unit. I provided his history, insurance, his list of medications and the rest of his info to the EMTs, and he was sent to the hospital. The next day, he was discharged and he came straight to my office, where I got him some money from his repayee account to get him new pants because the EMTs sliced up his pant cuffs when they were getting him to the hospital. I decided to go shopping for new pants with him and got him some McDonald's, and we talked about what happened. I sometimes wonder how things could have turned out very differently.

    The 988 crisis hotline has the potential to address mental health and reduce the incidence of violent escalations for people struggling with mental illness, especially for those in communities of color and belong to marginalized identities. However, we need to ramp up resources to make sure we can deal with the demand. At the center of this will be social workers.
    #The Time Is Right for Social Work

    Keith Chan
    Hunter College, City University of New York