During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Crisis Counselors at the County of Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department have been stepping up to meet the pressing needs of individuals in the community.
Back in early February, Crisis Counselors began receiving calls related to COVID-19 on their crisis hotline. And by the beginning of March, both crisis calls and text conversations became more focused on the pandemic.
The County’s Suicide and Crisis Hotline is available for anyone who is experiencing emotional disturbances, crises, or mental health challenges. Counselors, who are volunteers that must go through extensive training before officially counseling, are available 24/7. A Suicide Prevention Program, which started back in 2010, was formed with the mission of preventing suicides throughout the County; along with using the Hotline to support those struggling with suicidal thoughts, the program also works to train individuals to be able to understand and support community members who are in crisis.
When The Beat reached out to ask about the work they’re doing to support people during this unique time, a representative from the department mentioned that although the amount of calls they’ve received hasn’t increased significantly, many incoming calls are now focused on issues surrounding COVID-19. When the shelter-in-place order was announced last month, on March 16, they noticed a spike in texters, along with an increase in text conversations related to anxiety or stress.
“It’s always important to keep our mental health strong; however, during a crisis, people’s minds tend to go into survival mode,” said Program Manager for Suicide and Crisis Services Lan Nguyen. “This is similar to the fight-or-flight response where our brains are more reactive instead of using cool, calm, and logical thinking. Being grounded in strong mental health will help people to be more in charge of the situation rather than having the situation be in charge of them.”
When a caller calls in, Crisis Counselors support them by validating their feelings, showing empathy, giving them room to vent, and even providing them with some community resources that might be tailored toward their specific needs.
“Because everyone experiences crises in their own unique ways, it is difficult to come up with one particular method of helping people get through this crisis. Some people have turned to meditation, digital detoxes…avoiding too much news or social media, virtual social gatherings, and maintaining healthy sleep, eating, and exercise routines. Only individuals and their loved ones will know what is best for their own mental health,” Nguyen explained.
Anyone can call the Suicide and Crisis Hotline (1-855-278-4204) 24/7 to speak with a Crisis Counselor, and find support for any crisis situation.
The County’s Crisis Text Line service is also available for anyone to access a Crisis Counselor by text message. Text RENEW to the number 741741 to be connected to a Crisis Text Counselor.
In addition to the Suicide and Crisis Hotline, and the Crisis Text Line Service, the County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services Department has many resources to provide support for individuals and families who are in crisis, considering suicide, or struggling with mental illness or substance use. Their Mental Health Services Call Center is available 24/7 at: 1-800-704-0900
And here is some info on how to cope with stress during infectious disease outbreaks: www.sccbhsd.org