For the past two years, I have worked for a local crisis and suicide hotline. I’ve answered hundreds of calls from across the country, talking to people from a variety of different backgrounds and life circumstances who are in a state of crisis and need support. For some, this crisis was brought on by a sudden change in their life (such as the loss of a job or the end of a relationship) while others have been battling mental illness for years. No matter what their situation might be, my job is to listen, help them stay safe, and connect them with any resources that might help.
While I have been fortunate enough to help many people on the crisis line, it has not been without its challenges. Many of my callers have pointed out that the best mental health resources either require insurance or are too cost prohibitive for them to consider. Yes, there are options for people who are low-income and without insurance (free clinics, sliding-scale counselors, prescription discount programs) but they can be difficult to find and complicated to access, especially when you’re in the middle of a mental health crisis.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences some form of mental illness every year. That’s 43 million people, 18.5% of our nation’s population. That’s a staggering number of people who will need, or would benefit from, some kind of mental health support: whether that be counseling, prescription medication, or another form of therapy or treatment. Right now, under the current, Capitalist healthcare system, many people are being excluded – and the stakes are literally life-or-death. The CDC has reported that suicide has continued to rise over the past two decades, up 30% since 1999. While suicide is a complex issue, certainly improving access to mental health supports would at least be a reasonable step at helping those with suicidal ideation – especially when many insurance providers won’t pay for medical costs related to suicide attempts.
While I have been a socialist for many years, working on the crisis line and hearing the stories of people struggling with mental health has only deepened my belief that the United States needs socialized medicine – NOW. We need a healthcare system that every person has access to, so people aren’t forced to debate whether they can afford to take their depression medication, or whether they should go to the hospital for their suicidal ideation. These shouldn’t be the kinds of dilemmas people face in one of the wealthiest nations in the world! People should know they have access to support and treatment whenever they need it.
That is what we stand to gain with Medicare-for-All. and why it’s important that we continue to raise awareness of the impact it will have on the lives of us all.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is someone to help – 24/7/365. Call any of the numbers below and know that you are not alone.
Life Crisis Services: 314-647-4357
Behavioral Health Response ACI Hotline: 314-469-6644
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ people under 25): 1-866-488-7386
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741