As National Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, we at Amudim acknowledge that the mental health-related crisis generated by coronavirus has only just begun. While we’d hoped to see a marked drop in the volume of mental health-related cases as pandemic restrictions began to ease, the exact opposite occurred. Many people who are now readjusting to their new realities in the United States, Israel and other countries in the world are suddenly finding themselves struggling with issues that they may have been too busy to focus on during the height of the outbreak. Domestic violence victims who were quarantined with their abusers are only now beginning to seek help; and the volume of calls from those struggling with addictions, who were at a higher risk of relapse during the lockdown, has skyrocketed to unprecedented numbers.
Hoping to address the mental health component of COVID-19, Amudim is releasing an all new PSA video titled A Life Worth Living, a Multiple Outlet Production directed and produced by Yeeshai Gross, with screenwriting by our clinical advisory board. Historically, we’ve seen that previous award-winning videos by Amudim were extremely effective tools in destigmatizing issues rarely discussed and educating the public on an array of mental health struggles. A Life Worth Living is another powerful weapon in our arsenal in the war against the ongoing crisis, one that we hope will reassure viewers that help is just a phone call away.
Amudim’s caseload since the start of the coronavirus outbreak has increased 60 percent compared to the same season last year, a statistic that is simply staggering. The need for services, including hiring additional staff to handle the increased call volume, helping those who cannot afford the cost of therapy or treatment, and identifying housing or instituting safety measures for those who cannot live at home, has soared by percentages that no one in the world would have anticipated. In addition to the incoming calls to our office number, Amudim’s newly launched anonymous support line has fielded over 1,850 calls since its inception on March 22nd and proven to be a literal lifesaver for those struggling with coronavirus-related issues. Seventy-five percent of those callers reported that their immediate mental health crisis was resolved in a single conversation with a licensed professional, while the remainder was referred for ongoing care. Can we fathom how dire the current situation would be had those people lacked the option of a free support line?
The crisis wasn’t limited to the United States. With so many calls coming in from Israel, we expanded our support line by adding a designated number in Israel for English speakers staffed by English-speaking mental health professionals. In the short time since it has been operational, our Israeli support line has become an invaluable resource to the Anglo community, helping people cope with adversity during these trying times.
Yet even amid the darkness of COVID-19, we have been blessed to see so many positives as our community rose to the occasion, addressing issues of bereavement, unemployment and hunger, orchestrating and performing mind-blowing acts of kindness and charity. Yet sadly, those confronting mental health issues, domestic violence and the challenges of recovery have yet to be embraced by the mainstream, a problem that we at Amudim observe far too frequently. Others in the mental health field share that they bear witness to similar situations. While there has been mention of coronavirus-related mental health issues in the media, it is clear that this particular aspect of the pandemic is not receiving the attention it deserves, which is a reality that must change.
Over the last two-and-a-half months, our dedicated staff and volunteers have redefined the phrase “public service,” rising to the occasion despite their personal challenges. It has been inspiring to observe multiple organizations collaborating in myriad ways, uniting and working cohesively for the betterment of all humanity; and we hope that the community at large will step up to the plate and do its part for those who are in pain. As we close the door on National Mental Health Awareness Month, we pray for an end to this crisis while continuing to do everything humanly possible to raise awareness and destigmatize these issues so those struggling can hold their heads up high and seek help without fear.
Zvi Gluck is the CEO of Amudim, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction and mental health issues. He has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 20 years. For more information, see www.amudim.org.