By Jessica Easthope
The reassuring voice on the other end of the phone, sometimes when the person calling is desperate for help — that voice can save a life.
“Not having a job or my job stopped because of the pandemic, I’m not working or whatever I’m getting isn’t enough some people are reporting suicidal ideations or even suicide attempts,” said Karina Albarracin, a social worker and therapist at Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.
Over the last year Karina’s seen an increase in suicidal thoughts and attempts among her clients, even children.
“If we talk about children and teenagers it’s the remote learning, how it has affected many of them at such a young age having to learn time management, now they have to wake up on their own and be responsible,” she said.
Karina has had a 30 percent increase in cases. Not only has her number of clients gone up, but the pandemic has driven up the frequency of the need itself.
“I used to have clients who were okay with bi-weekly sessions, but now they have so much need that you need to see them weekly. It’s not only the amount of clients, but how often they need help,” said Karina.
She’s the person some clients see after reaching out to Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens’ 24/7 Essential Workers Hotline.
“Having their children at home, not having financial resources, not having food, domestic violence they’re experiencing because of the pressure, substance abuse has increased in not only our clients but in the community,” said Claudia Salazar, the Vice President of Behavioral Health at Catholic Charities.
The hotline has had more than 700 essential workers call in. They have put their health at risk for the sake of the community. Claudia says as the COVID-19 pandemic is hopefully nearing its end, we’re only on the brink of a mental health pandemic.
“There’s a lot of trauma that we’re going to see in the next few years because trauma doesn’t start up and shut down. It’s something that takes a long time to develop and also a long time to deal with,” said Claudia.
After getting to know her clients, Karina says she’s able to incorporate one of her strongest coping tools: faith.
“What is going to help me to be able to say, It’s going to be okay,’ that’s when we have our faith,. Being able to say, ‘Things are going to be okay and I can’t control that, but I have my faith and hope that things will get better,’” Karina said.
As essential workers themselves, the mental health professionals at Catholic Charities encourage people to use the hotline. Whether it’s one time or every day, a voice will be there.