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Pandemic Redefines Mental Health 'Crisis Calls'

Prior to the pandemic, one in five Americans reported having some type of mental illness. Now, that number is up to 40 percent according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The isolation, uncertainty and insecurities of the pandemic have perpetuated the increase researchers and physicians have seen in mental illness diagnoses over the past few years.

Kristin Sauerbier, Executive Director of The Neighborhood Center’s mental health crisis line, said that the increase in calls they have seen has reflected that trend.

“We did see a very significant increase in crisis calls during COVID and just overall for the 2020 year, and then we've seen an additional increase for calls and assessments in 2021, thus far, for the year,” Sauerbier said.

The Neighborhood Center’s 24/7 crisis line serves Oneida, Herkimer, Schoharie, Otsego, Chenango and Delaware counties. In Oneida County, the center’s most populated coverage area, they have seen a substantial increase in crisis calls.

From January 1 to April 30, there were 802 unique clients and 3,224 total calls. That is a 13.6 percent increase in clients from that time period last year and a 7.5 percent increase in calls.

Sauerbier said the crisis line is not reserved just for people experiencing acute mental health situations, like thoughts of self-harm and suicide. She said it is for anyone who needs a little help.

“Crisis is a very relative term, right,” she said. “What is a crisis to one person may not be a crisis to another.”

She said while some of the calls they have had have been more acute, sometimes people just need someone to talk to and that is what they are here for.

“It could be the day where you're just having a really difficult day and you happen to drop your keys by accident as you're walking from your car to your home, and that's just kind of the breaking point for you that day,” said Sauerbier.

Neighborhood Center’s crisis line: 315-732-6228. Madison County 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Line: 315-366-2327 National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255