RIVERBEND - Sometimes you have a bad day, and other times that bad day can build into a crisis where you feel like you need immediate help.

That’s a scary thought, but there are some local leaders in the mental health community who are redefining what it means to be in crisis and what the community response looks like. They take us through what a crisis is, what local resources are available and what happens when you ask for help.

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“Crisis is a scary word, and I get that. It’s a very scary word,” David Hunter, a counselor with Centerstone, said. “But I look at it as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for things to get better. It’s hitting that point where, okay, enough is enough. I need help. And there’s no shame in wanting to get out. There’s no shame in advocating for yourself.”

Centerstone offers a variety of behavioral health services at their Alton location. Hunter works specifically with their Crisis Response Team, which offers counseling and a mobile response team that will meet clients where they’re at.

As our understanding of mental health has improved in recent years, mental health professionals have also redefined what it means to be in crisis, broadening the definition so that more people can get help before a situation elevates. Previously, the term “crisis” was usually restricted to when a person was experiencing suicidal or homicidal ideation.

While those examples would certainly still be considered a crisis, Hunter explained that the community is moving toward a “client-identified crisis” model. This means that services like Centerstone can connect with people before they reach those levels. Maybe, he added, the earlier intervention is what prevents a situation from escalating.

“It kind of broadens the field, and the reason I like that is because I feel like it catches things. I would love to catch people before they hit suicidal ideation,” Hunter said. “It has the potential to catch things before they get to an elevated stance…and I like more of a proactive prevention mindset.”

So, you’ve identified that you’re in crisis. What happens next?

One of the simplest ways to ask for help is to call or text 988, which is the Suicide & Crisis Line (formerly the National Suicide Prevention Hotline). The Crisis Text Line is another option; all you have to do is text “HOME” to 741741.

Whether you contact 988 or 741741, you’ll be connected with a real person who is trained to handle a crisis. Usually, the person will encourage you to share what’s going on and why you reached out. They will stay on the line with you until you both agree that the situation is de-escalated and you are safe.

Sometimes, you and the crisis counselor might decide you need additional support. This is where services like Centerstone come in. Their mobile crisis response team receives a lot of referrals from hotlines like this. After a referral, they will respond to any location in Madison County within 90 minutes. (You can also contact Centerstone directly at 855-608-3560.)

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“When we receive a referral, we go to the client. So that can be at the client’s house, it can be an ER, it could be at a police station, it could be at a school if it’s a child, it can be at a McDonald’s, which I did one time,” Hunter said.

In addition to a counselor like him, a crisis engagement specialist will come along. The specialist is not a clinician; this is someone who has lived experience with mental health crises.

When you talk with the counselor and the crisis engagement specialist, their aim is to figure out how to best support you. Hunter explained they always look for the “least-intrusive method” of intervention, meaning they will work with you to decide what level of support you need. They also try to avoid hospitalization, unless that’s what you feel is best.

“When I’m screening someone, I want them to be an active participant in the screening and get their opinions, get their feedback, and to make sure that they’re involved in that process,” Hunter added. “It’s not like a clinician just coming in and saying, ‘Okay, here’s what’s going to happen,’ and you don’t get a say. We definitely want them to be a part of that process.”

These are great resources if you or someone you love needs immediate help. If it’s not a crisis but you feel like the situation has the potential to escalate into a crisis, Sacred Spaces of CARE is another option to find help and information. This organization connects people with services in the Riverbend area.

Founder Megan Tyler explained that most people don’t know what to do when a loved one is struggling with mental health or addiction; it’s hard to know where to even start, especially if you are experiencing the exhaustion and overwhelm that’s common with mental health struggles. Sacred Spaces of CARE takes some of the guesswork out of it.

“We want to be that connector for the community,” Tyler explained. “[To] help navigate and help with phone calls and help make connections and recommend programs and help you to be aware of what actually even is an option, because that’s half of the battle right there.”

All you have to do is call, and they’ll share resources with you that could be helpful. Sacred Spaces of CARE also offers crisis education and training sessions, including specialized education for law enforcement. Alton Police Department will often contact someone from Sacred Spaces of CARE to be on the scene if they’re responding to a crisis. The organization will also follow up with that individual to link them with resources and support in the community.

“[Mental illness] doesn’t discriminate,” Tyler added. “Until you’re in the moment and it touches you or your family, when that happens, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’ve never had to navigate this before. I have no idea what I’m doing.’”

Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. To learn more about Sacred Spaces of CARE, check out this article on RiverBender.com or visit their official website. See Centerstone’s official website for information, including how to access their services; you can also learn more about mental health and substance use through their videos and blog posts.

It’s National Suicide Prevention Week. If you need help, ask for it. You deserve to be happy, healthy and safe.

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