L.A. Suicide Hotline Faces Crisis During Coronavirus Pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has been putting a lot of people into a tailspin. Many people are confused about what to do and what their future will be like going forward, causing people to develop suicidal thoughts. Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Crisis Line, one of the largest suicide call centers in the U.S., has been getting an increasingly large number of phone calls in relation to the current pandemic.

Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Hotline

Set in Los Angeles, Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Hotline counselors have provided comfort to thousands of people who call the Disaster Distress Hotline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They take about 130,000 calls and chats per year and have helped callers during recessions, hurricanes, and the death of loved ones. This agency has locations throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. For those who need more support, there are licensed clinicians who provide short-term individual and family therapy to help people cope with loss and develop strategies to keep themselves safe. There is also special training for healthcare workers, first responders, therapists, social workers, counselors, psychologists, and more. There is always someone there to speak to; either through the phone or via electronic means (text or chat).

Surge of Calls

In March, crisis counselors dealt with a dramatic shift in calls with more than 1,800 calls coming in related to the coronavirus pandemic, compared to 20 calls the month before. Anxiety or stress was a top concern for 45%, health concerns were a big worry for 25%, relationship concerns for 21%, and loneliness or isolation for 19%. Callers worrying about the coronavirus were typically older, with 37% over the age of 45. Women were being hit the hardest over the effects of the virus and living in isolation. One in five COVID-19-related calls included “suicidal desire.”

The more hopeless and helpless people become, the more they are at risk for substance abuse, depression, and other concerns. People are worried about a variety of issues, including their own safety and wellbeing, their children, job loss, or car and mortgage payments. When the reality hits about unemployment, having their kids home for a long time, running out of food and supplies, or if someone in their household gets hit with the virus, that is when the calls start pouring in.

Types of Calls

April Rosas, one of the counselors, received a call from one woman who came back from the market with a dry cough worrying that she contracted COVID-19. She was scared she would infect her husband and children. She hugged her children without thinking she may have spread it to them. The caller told Rosas that she was embarrassed to call, but had struggled with anxiety and did not know anyone else to turn to. Rosas told the woman she did the best that she could do as a parent by being there for them. Rosas also heard from elderly people who have not left home and feel isolated. Nurses are calling due to stress over issues such as the lack of protective equipment and co-workers who have tested positive. There are also calls from individuals worrying about their spouses who are working and might bring the virus to the family.

How Counselors Respond

Rosas also listened as parents vented about their anxieties regarding their own children. Rosas advises how important it is to just be there for your callers. All you can say is that you are taking everything one day at a time, as no one can provide the answers for this crisis. This puts counselors in a tough position, since the worries the callers have are the same worries they are experiencing. Volunteers and staff are asked to do more as those who cannot come to the office are working remotely and working the Crisis Chat, which is an online service for those who do not want to talk on the phone. Managers are also picking up four to six shifts a week. Rosas tries to validate callers’ worries and help them understand they are not alone. She also tries grounding techniques with them like taking a few deep breaths.

L.A. Suicide Hotline’s Suggestions to Cope

L.A. Suicide Hotline recommends that those who are feeling overwhelmed right now should find ways to connect with others through video or phone calls, as well as spending time with family when you are home. It is also important to exercise regularly and continue keeping a routine in your home to avoid spending all day in bed. Limit alcohol drinking and get enough sleep. It is also said that running errands for others, giving a grocery gift card to someone in need, or showing gratitude to your healthcare workers can make a difference in your mental health.

You should also set the limit for how often you watch or read the news on social media, local, or national news, to avoid feeling overwhelmed with negativity. Make sure the updates you are getting about the virus are coming from reputable resources like cdc.gov, your local healthcare provider, or local 211 or 311 services if they are available. One thing that can ease your worries is the fact that everyone around the world is going through this crisis and going through similar challenges as you. This is a crisis that will eventually end, and things will continue running. The L.A. Suicide Hotline is still accepting calls right now and it is important that you always speak to someone when you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

If you or your loved one is struggling with thoughts of suicide, we are here to help. At Silver Lining, our customized treatment programs utilize a number of different individualized therapies like EMDR, CBT, DBT, meditation treatment, faith-based treatment, and academic and career counseling, with the help of knowledgeable and experienced counselors who will be there for you and can help uncover unresolved issues. For more information, please call us today at (866) 729-8577.