Southern Indiana seeing backlog in mental health services for clients

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) — Clients seeking mental health services and counseling could have to wait months before getting a new patient appointment in southern Indiana.

Counselors, therapists and psychiatrists are in high demand the Hoosier state. According to the most recent data from the nonprofit Mental Health America, Indiana ranks 42nd in the nation for a high prevalence of mental illness and low rates of access to care. This can result in a backlog of new patients waiting for help.

But mental health professionals are urging patients and their support systems to not give up seeking for help, especially for children considering or attempting suicide or self-harm.

Charles Love, the clinical director at The Growth Center, a counseling center in New Albany. He said in recent years, they are seeing more and more clients attempt suicide younger and younger.

“We have very young children who are making attempts at suicide,” Love said. “When you don’t have any life experience that says, 'I will get through this,' you going to be more vulnerable to saying, 'This is valid. This is a reasonable option to commit suicide.'”

Love said as children have instant access to just about everything through the internet and cell phones, it can be overwhelming not knowing how to process or handle the information, peer pressure or bullying. He encourages all parents to be aware of what their children are accessing online and to openly talk about it.

If a child is contemplating or threatening suicide, Love said it’s critical to take immediate action. There is a training that resembles CPR called QPR, which stands for:

  • Q – Question
  • P – Persuade
  • R – Refer

The QPR Institute provides training for practical methods to help prevent suicide. You do not need to be a medical professional to take this training.

Love said to follow QPR, you need to be direct about asking if someone is planning to commit suicide or hurt themselves. The second step is to persuade the person to seek help. Love said you need to reassure the person or child that you care and are prepared to do whatever needed to help. And finally, refer the person to the hospital or to a professional practice. Love said it is important to follow through and continue to make sure the person is seeking help, even if there is a waiting list.

“Continue to check on them,” Love said. “Maybe not in an obtrusive fashion but to simply let them know that they are there. It’s important that we continue to let them know how much we care, that we are there for them and that we are willing to do whatever it takes to keep them here.”

If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.