Recession Blamed for Huge Increase in Calls to Crisis Clinic

Statistics show a severe first-quarter spike — nearly double — in reports from Kitsap’s mentally ill and from those weighing suicide.

By Rachel Pritchett


It’s an early weekday morning. A phone lights up at the Crisis Clinic. 

It’s her again.

The woman sounds close to tears — really stressed. Like usual, she’s getting ready for work, but she’s worried herself into a petrified state. Maybe this will be her last day; maybe this is the day her job will go away. Then what?

For five minutes, she pours her fears into the phone. Someone from the Crisis Clinic calms her down. She hangs up and tentatively steps back into her morning routine.

People who are deeply anguished and frightened in this steamroller recession have contributed to a doubling of the number of calls received at the Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas, its leader says.    

The center received a staggering 3,092 calls between January and March, compared to only 1,559 that time last year, according to program supervisor Kelly Schwab.

Calls like the woman who is worried about losing her job are common now, Schwab said. Schwab attributes the spike in calls to the recession bearing down on people who are poor and fragile to begin with.

Get an earful of these numbers between the same time period:

Calls from people who are already mentally ill — many of them bearing a heavier emotional burden because they fear they’ll lose government help — have risen from 652 to 1,256.

Calls from people who are lonely — some full of anxiety and staying in their cramped apartments watching the news that seems to get worse every day — have gone up from 489 to 604.

Calls from people contemplating suicide have increased from 163 to 306.

Calls from people saddled with heavy stress have jumped from 195 to 278.

Phone calls from persons desperate about their finances rose from 71 to 172. One man was in the midst of talking to a Crisis Clinic worker when a deputy arrived at his home with foreclosure papers.

“He was already unsure what he was going to do, so you can imagine,” Schwab said.

Calls about domestic violence are up from 67 to 172. “That is directly involved with the economy,” said Schwab of the increase in calls from both domestic-violence abusers and victims feeling helpless in a cold, gray economy.

“If you’re losing control in one part of your life, you exert it in another,” he said.

Schwab suspects, but can’t document, that calls from people who consider harming themselves — say through cutting — also is up.

Schwab said he’s never seen such a steep increase in calls from people feeling so powerless over something so overwhelming, calls so personal about something so impersonal.

The 35 Crisis Clinic volunteers do what they can.

“What we try to do is get them past a moment in time,” he said. They may suggest they get some exercise, or try to make them feel they have power. Or, just listen.

The community referral service Peninsula’s 2-1-1 also experienced double the calls the first quarter of 2009 over the same time of 2008, according to Kitsap Mental Health Services spokeswoman Rochelle Doan.

The most common inquiries were for utilities assistance, rent or mortgage assistance, low-cost housing, food and shelter.



More about the Crisis Clinic

Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas, where distressed people can call for help, operates out of Kitsap Mental Health Services in East Bremerton. Founded in 1965, it is the nation’s third-oldest Crisis Clinic. Only San Francisco’s and Seattle’s are older. Two people who helped form the call center, Marge Thorne and Lucy Konizeski, continue to volunteer today. The Crisis Clinic serves people on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.

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