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  • Writer's pictureericjcarrig

Real-time mental health resources to call when you don’t know where to turn

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Solutions for the Underaffiliated welcomed Ben Carey and Judith Klein, founders of Mental Health GPS, a non-profit organization that helps people find mental health resources in real-time via live peer counselors.

The mental health crisis scenario

  • Things have become intolerable. You feel you are falling apart. You are afraid.

  • You are not a threat to yourself or others.

  • It could be a chaotic relationship, unmanageable behavior of a child, anxiety about family or school — you may not be sure what is wrong, just that something is.

  • You need to talk to someone, but don’t know where to begin — a stranger is fine if they can calm you down.

  • Each of us has a different threshold for when the pressure and fear is too much, and you have just reached yours.

  • You don’t want to worry about insurance right now. You aren’t sure you want to schedule an appointment to see a mental health professional.

  • You want a voice and a plan because you don’t know what to do.

You can’t just Google it

  • Google searches don’t calm people down because they can return all kinds of services and clinical providers that one can’t access in the heat of the moment.

  • Health plan and health system directories can be difficult to navigate if you rarely search in them and don’t know what you want in the first place.

  • What is in them only includes what is in their approved network, not all the services in the area you might need.

  • Chapters of national mental health organizations can vary in terms of funding and sophistication, so you might not get the direction you need.

Mental Health GPS offers mental health navigation services: 888-672-0365

  • Mental Health GPS is confidential, non-crisis hotline for when people want immediate guidance to find the right mental health service for them.

  • Trained, live, peer counselors answer the hotline, listen to callers’ situation, gauge the urgency, collect basic data, and ask questions to get to the best options for the caller to take.

  • While on the phone, counselors search databases of local non-profits and clinical organizations to provide multiple, vetted options for services like therapy, domestic violence resources, clinics, depression and anxiety support, detox programs, peer support or whatever is needed.

  • People can call back if the resources provided don’t work out.

  • Counselors are not clinical workers and refer callers to licensed professionals as needed.

  • Patients do not always need a clinician, however. Sometimes they just want to talk.

  • Mental Health GPS is different from 988, which is for when there is a risk of someone hurting themselves, e.g. committing suicide, or others, and 911, which is for life-threatening, public safety emergencies.

  • It is available in North Carolina, but peers know how to find resources in all states.

How it closes gaps in the mental health system

  • A live person who has been in the caller’s situation and knows the challenges of finding care in a pinch talks to callers.

  • These counselors calm people down and point them to the most appropriate services

  • It’s anonymous and confidential: Mental Health GPS anonymizes all the data it gathers to analyze and improve.

  • Mental Health GPS is independent, so it recommends the best choices for callers. It is not funded by an insurer or health system, nor is it linked to any ideological organization like a church, so there are no limitations on which organizations show up in searches for callers and which they can use.

  • Having a number to call and get a voice who can tell you what to do or calm you down by listening is faster, easier and less expensive than trying to to find a therapist.

Example One — Family with a grown son

  • The mother of a grown son who is living with his parents, has a mental health issue, and may be on drugs calls.

  • The son is becoming threatening, to the point where the parents are afraid of the son, so they lock themselves in their room.

  • The son is denying there is anything wrong or is blaming it on everyone else

  • They need a mobile crisis team, but don’t want the police involved because that can escalate things, and the son may have had run-ins with the police.

  • Mental Health GPS finds them a mobile crisis team, and can also connect with other parents in the same situation and with therapists with experience with adult child behavior problems.

Example Two — College students fearing the university will disclose their needs to peers and parents

  • Colleges may have great mental health services

  • However, students are worried about confidentiality related to their parents, and peers

  • Schools would probably keep student information confidential but students still worry about it.

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