December 26, 2012

Finding Help - Addendum to "Let's Talk About The Nutjobs"

It occurred to me that I’m breaking one of my cardinal rules; don’t tell me that shit needs to change and not give me a solution to try with my post “Let’s talk about the ‘Nutjobs’”.  

I didn’t bother to give you any resources with which to change the world, and for that I’m sorry.

Obviously, if you or another person is in imminent threat of violence, either to yourself or others, call 911.  Even if you are one of hundreds of people in the fray, do it anyway.  Often times, when multiple people are observing an event, they expect everyone else is already calling in the emergency.  This means that it can take longer for the right people to be alerted to the problem.  You’re not bothering operators who are paid to handle reports of emergencies by reporting one, even if you’re the 10,000th person to do so.  

If you are having thoughts about self harm, or feel that you’ve reached the end of your rope and want to do something drastic to end it all, please, for the love of all things anybody considers holy, consider calling the suicide prevention hotline.  1-800-273-8255.  If you’d rather type than talk, they can be reached 24 hours a day on their website as well -  

If you’re looking for help for yourself or another person, but don’t know how to go about doing so, check with your local government.  A quick google search brought up information on the local Health and Human Services site regarding what services were available to both adults and children.  If you’re worried about the cost, you might not have to.  The Department of Health and Human Services says of their services;  “Ability to pay is not a factor; persons pay what they can afford.”.

If you are in Nebraska and southwest Iowa, you can dial 211 from any phone and speak with someone who can help.  This is a service of United Way of the Midlands. and might not be available in all states.  However, UnitedWay does offer mental health referral services in all states.  It might just take some digging to find the proper phone number.  

If you’re in the Omaha, Council Bluffs area and need financial help for mental health services, Lutheran Family Services can help.  Catholic Charities also offers advice and assistance to those in need.  If you’re located in other states, check with other, similar organizations in your area.

Because I don’t know where all of you hail from, I decided to zoom out a bit.  On a national level, firstgov lists the following for assistance finding services for those in need of mental health care.

If you work for an employer that offers an assistance plan, more than likely, they offer help and referrals for mental health concerns.  Even if you don’t know what to ask for, the professionals can give you a helping hand finding the right path.  This means if you need the help, or if you’re concerned for someone you care about, they can give you the guidance to make sure everyone involved stays safe and finds the treatment they need.

There are hundreds of resources across the country, I’m sure.  It would be impossible to catalog them all.  The quick and dirty suggestion to anyone seeking help is to just start looking.  If you have health insurance, your carrier should have a listing of their in network providers available to you in your schedule of benefits or on their website.  If you don’t know where to find that information, or if you don’t have coverage for therapy, you can use the link below from Psychology Today to find a therapist in your area.  (This lists providers from the United States and Canada).

If these don’t work, take a look in your city’s phone book.  Most of them have sections for government and non-profit agencies.  Check with Health and Human Services in your area, as well as your entitlement offices.  From my brief time working at the County Health Center, I can tell you that there is a clinic available to low income folks who need help in my area, and I would bet that there’s on in most large cities or county seats.

If you don’t know anyone who’s in crisis, aren’t in the middle of an event that requires you to call 911, and are still feeling like you need to *do* something, consider volunteering at a local crisis holtine.    

If this isn’t for you, there are hundreds of organizations that you can donate to, whether it be time or money.  Help isn’t generally free, and every dollar counts.  If you can only give a little, don’t feel like it won’t matter.  It will.  If you can’t give money, then ask about time.  Maybe you can volunteer in a call center, or to write letters, or to spend a moment with people who need company, but maybe not medical attention.  Human touch has the ability to lower blood pressure and release feel good hormones in the system.  

If none of that appeals to you, and you still want to do something, perhaps something that you can see the immediate benefit of, talk.  Tell the people around you that you’ll listen.  Tell them that you’re an ally.  Make sure people know that you’d put the noisy world on mute for them if they needed someone.  Sometimes, when you’re in that place where you could feel like the world doesn’t give two shits, just knowing someone would give you the time of day is enough to get you through.  To someone in need, a hug might be worth more than any monetary donation.  Perspective is what gives your effort value, not the gold standard.  When I say you can give almost anything and have it be of value, I mean it.  It’s how you define value that makes it true.

Let me tell you, I speak from experience when I say I know how how much shame you can feel when you’re sitting in a waiting room waiting to hear someone tell you you’re some sort of nuts.  Depression and anxiety are, as Steven Fry says, very much like the weather.  Some days it's good.  Some days it's bad, but none of it is within your control.  I can only imagine the feeling is the same for those affected by other psychological disorders.  The thing is, it’s a disease, no more a person’s fault than getting alzheimers or having a stroke.  There is no shame in looking for help, regardless of where you might find it.  Personally, I would respect a person who can suck up their pride and sit in the cracked vinyl chair of a too-warm government health care clinic infinitely more than someone who’s too afraid of who might see them there and sits at home in their misery.  I would run interference for someone who spent a week on various hold with office after office, trying to talk to someone who can help them with their concerns about someone they cared about much more than the person who trumpets “Things have got to change!” and didn’t lift a finger to make it happen.  I mean, clicktivism is great, but it doesn’t get you very far.  Until you’ve got some ichor on your shoes, and a sprained finger from making phone calls and writing emails, then you’re still a cub scout.  Change happens when you earn your merit badge.  Now, let’s get to helping little old ladies across the street.

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