An Open Letter to Those Suffering from Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
Lindsey Fisher, Director of Admissions for Sierra by the Sea and Sunrise Ranch
A proud member of the Sierra Tucson Group
Dear fellow social distancers,
I’ve been thinking a lot about you and what you may be experiencing amid this global pandemic. I don’t wish to share another “we’re here for you” or “how to take care of your mental health during this crisis” blog post, but I hope my words can somehow reach you with honesty and sincerity. Let me share some information with you about what’s actually happening in the behavioral healthcare industry right now and how that might affect your decision to seek the change I know you’ve been thinking about.
Some treatment facilities are closing their doors. Some will reopen, and many will not. The total number of calls to treatment facilities and website traffic in the United States are steadily decreasing, but admissions have stayed roughly the same. What that tells me is that individuals who actually call are ready to take action, that their drug or alcohol use isn’t slowing, or that rising dread is becoming intolerable.
Since most are at home, perhaps for the first time in a while, their family members are noticing the inconsistencies, the missing pills, the late sleeping, or the recurring emotional outbursts and quiet guilt. All are plausible signs of addiction or depression, but the family can no longer avert their eyes — it’s starkly in front of them.
Perhaps others can’t stand to be alone anymore because they’ve been isolated too long already. Or maybe they just lost their job or were asked to take an extended leave. It could be the other way around too; people can’t get enough of what they need to survive. The intangible obsession turned physical dependence is demanding to be front and center, but the supply is dwindling fast.
Whatever the reason someone chooses to call doesn’t really matter. But what you must know is that others are seeking help right now. Individuals who are using fentanyl, other opiates, or methamphetamines; drinking daily bottles of wine; fighting for custody of their kids; getting lost on the streets; or feeling depressed and losing hope are calling.
Drug and alcohol misuse and overdoses are on the rise as the realities of COVID-19 have settled into the consciousness of nearly every human being. Triggering fear, anxiety, and depression, COVID-19 is seemingly igniting the next wave of the opioid crisis, and alcohol sales have increased by 55%.
States like Pennsylvania and North Carolina are experiencing an increase in 911 calls to report overdoses, and more people are dying from overdoses now than at the same time last year. In a single county in North Carolina, 10% of the 911 overdose calls resulted in the person dying.
You must know that stockpiling your drug of choice can lead to the temptation to use too much, and if you overdose, it is possible that you won’t get the help you need right away. First responders are already fighting one extraordinary battle, and they may not be able to be there for you.
Behavioral healthcare providers are taking the additional pressure off the community hospitals, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers by offering much more specialized treatment for substance use disorders. Many behavioral healthcare providers offer customized treatment plans and have doctors and nurses who can provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and detoxification services. These facilities have teams who are virus-informed, professionally sanitize living spaces, provide telehealth services, and are creative and innovative in their delivery of care. Creating a safe, supportive, medically monitored, trauma- and virus-informed space is more important than it ever was before.
If you are reading this, you are probably searching online for a center that sounds “just like that!” I encourage you to call. I encourage you to harness your bravery and demand from yourself an honest answer about why you are putting this off.
Don’t delay any longer. If you’re abusing drugs and alcohol, your immune system isn’t strong, and you’re more prone to infection. COVID-19 is a serious threat to you if you smoke because your respiratory system is compromised. Many syringe users will begin to share due to potential shortages, exponentially increasing their odds of contracting the virus.
Attempting to detox alone can be fatal. Suddenly stopping the use of alcohol or benzodiazepines can not only make you feel like you’re dying, but it can also cause seizures or cardiovascular events that can lead to death. Your tolerance is already too high anyway. And it’s just not fun anymore.
I promised I wouldn’t say this, but I mean it: I support you.
Sierra by the Sea and Sunrise Ranch are licensed, accredited, nationally recognized behavioral health treatment facilities for adult men and women located in Newport Beach and Riverside, California. To speak to an admissions coordinator anytime 24/7, please call (800) 642-0047.