“Oh my, you picked up the phone!”
The caller sounded genuinely surprised and held her breath for a moment, before calmly telling her story. For more than a year, she and her husband have been largely trapped in their own home by their psychotic son. The 25-year-old refuses any treatment; he’s making threats and has a gun. Most nights he’s holed up in his room, doing drugs, while his parents try to sleep, behind their double-locked bedroom door.
Now in its sixth month of operation, the Mental Health GPS has received nearly 1,000 calls
Including about a dozen like the above, where parents describe being effectively held hostage by a psychotic, grown child (the details are slightly altered to preserve anonymity). These are the most complex cases, amid scores of calls from people of all ages and incomes needing support for depression, anxiety, relationships, trauma, and drug use.
Our experience so far is that there is almost always something to try, if not an ideal solution. At the GPS, we listen to each caller carefully and research the best options based on their location, age, insurance, and behavioral issues. Our databases cover the full range of human and mental health and substance use services, and we aim to give each caller several local options – and do so quickly, usually on the same day. Listening and providing information are psychological balms: just knowing there are services out there, and which are the most useful, can be a great relief. And if those don’t work out for some reason, people call back, and we look for other options.
In the above example of the psychotic son, there were local mobile crisis teams trained to manage mental health emergencies. And the young man potentially qualified for longer-term, residential care – if he could be persuaded to go along (a big if).
But in most such cases, these kinds of services don’t exist...
The gaps in the mental health system are well known, deep, and wide: Very few long-term slots are available. Mobile crisis teams with clinical training are nonexistent in many of the rural areas we cover in North Carolina. It can take months to get an appointment with a psychiatrist, especially a child and adolescent specialist.
And then there’s the phone problem – namely, no one seems to answer those anymore. Most of the people who have contacted the GPS in these first six months had spent hours trying to get someone, anyone, on the line, after enduring endless phone trees, message machines, bots and dropped calls. “Hey, you answered” is often the first thing they say.
The GPS does a lot more than answer. Most of our navigators, the call-takers, are trained peer support specialists: people who have lived through a substance use or mental health issue themselves and know the system from the inside. They work for the GPS because they care, and remember how lost they felt when they were first looking for help.
People in urgent need will pay big money if they have it to get reliable, knowledgeable, guidance of the kind the GPS provides. Our service is free for all. And our cost to pay for a GPS navigator is relatively modest.
About the Author
Our team of knowledgeable mental health and communications professionals gather the best available resources and convert them into a useful blogposts to adopt the evidence-based knowledge into popular language. With blogging we want to equip our society with necessary knowledge and support our mental health.
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