Bootheel counselors and first responders see increase in suicidal calls

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 7:15 PM CDT
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SOUTHEAST Mo. (KFVS) - First responders are trained to handle all types of emergency situations, but some are seeing a concerning spike in calls related to mental health emergencies.

One communications center in the Bootheel took to social media to address the increase.

Kennett 9-1-1 Communications put out a post three days ago after seeing what they call a rise in suicidal callers.

It reads “We want you to know you matter and you are not alone.”

”We just know that there is a problem out there and we’re trying to fix it or get the best answers for folks,” Kennett Fire Chief Paul Spain said.

Spain said he knows by looking at the numbers.

Suicidal calls currently sit at 57 for this year which is 50 more than last June.

“It’s a problem that the emergency services are having to deal with, the FCC the Missouri Behavioral Health Council as well as the Three Rivers Crisis Intervention Team and they’re aware of it and they’re trying to solve the problem as well as far as what we do there on the field,” Spain said.

A Quality Improvement Officer at FCC Behavioral Health said it’s not just the increase in calls that’s concerning, but also the increase in the severity of them.

Spain calls responding to a mental health crisis a team effort; one he couldn’t do without the help of law enforcement.

“You never know what you’re getting yourself into so law enforcement is always one of the first ones on scene,” he said

Paramedic Christina Degenhardt said at Cape County Private Ambulance Service they see suicidal calls come in waves and they’re often serving the same patients over and over again.

“I feel like they’re not getting the help that they really need or maybe its not long enough help, you know some places only keep them for 48 hours, 72 hours, 96 hours but maybe that’s not long enough for these people,” Degenhardt said.

Degenhardt also worries about a patient’s ability to stay on the medications they’re given or get to the therapy or counseling they need.

“I think maybe we’re falling short in that respect, I’m not saying these facilities aren’t doing everything they possibly can to help them, I’m just saying a different method is needed,” she said

You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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