Raw and Open: Mobile Mental Health Crisis Response Teams

Guest Author: Jody Betty

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

I have been passively suicidal since I was eight years old, when I had my first attempt.

Since then, I have dealt with these incredibly invasive thoughts day after day, and have survived a handful of actual suicide attempts. Over the years, I have learned a variety of coping skills to allow me to keep these thoughts as passive ones, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have times where these techniques simply do not work; times where I feel I have lost all hope and I am encompassed by the darkness of these thoughts. Over the years, I have thought of every possible way to take my life but with a lot of hard work, I have held those actions at bay for nine years now.

I have a really hard time with some classifications of anti-depressants, primarily SSRI’s, and the side effects have been so extreme they have actually increased my suicidal ideations, and decreased my ability to put my coping tools to work. My thoughts become uncontrollably irrational and my actions tend to follow to follow suit, adding in a healthy dose of impulsivity. I can feel the difference in my mind that the medication is making, and none of it is good. I was recently on Zoloft and as soon as we increased to 100 mg is when my mind went haywire.

I was actually afraid of myself.

I chose to suffer through for a few weeks, in hopes that these side effects would subside, but unfortunately they just worsened, and my thoughts went from passive to actively planning a route out. After a few days of this, I made the decision to reduce back down to my original dose of 50 mg and wean off to nothing from there.

The decrease did not go well and I found myself in a heavy and dark place that was swallowing me whole by the minute. A few weeks ago, after a particularly hard start to the day, I was feeling so unsafe that I was actually afraid of myself. I was afraid that I would no longer be able to employ any skills that had kept me alive for so long, and so, I made the decision to try to reach out, the question being, to where? I often don’t feel much relief talking to a crisis worker as so much of the conversation is scripted, and my fear of hospitals far outweighs my fear of death. I researched resources in my area and happen to come across Peel Crisis Services, who run a hotline around the clock.

I often don’t feel much relief talking to a crisis worker.

The thought of calling them was of little interest as I expected just another crisis worker, saying the same things that the last one did. 

Hesitantly, I picked up the phone, dialed the number and waited about 18 minutes to press the call button. The line rang and rang, followed by a message saying that all the crisis workers were busy and I could either wait on the line, or leave my name and number and someone would call me back. So I opted for the easy way out and left a message. My phone rang back less than ten minutes later and although I was riddled with fear and anxiety, I answered. There was a young gentleman on the other end of the line, which immediately threw me off, as in my mind, I had expected a woman to call.

However, he was quite gentle and pleasant and after ensuring my immediate safety mentioned that they could send a mobile crisis team to my home which would consist of a specially trained, plain clothes police officer and a social worker. I hesitated at first, not sure if I was comfortable having a cop at my house, but decided it was the safest space for me to open up.

About two hours later, my anxiety through the roof, they arrived. I let them in, sat them down and proceeded to have a panic attack. They talked me through it, got me settled down enough and we began to chat about what had triggered me into crisis in the first place. They were both incredibly kind, compassionate and sympathetic. They actually listened and allowed me to express my feelings without fear of judgement, or fear of hospitals. They ensured me several times that their job was to ensure my safety at home, and at all costs, avoid going to hospital.

The social worker asked all the standard questions but also went a bit more personally into my case. They stayed for almost two hours, by which point I was calm and rational. They left me with some information pamphlets, the 24-hour crisis number and a resource to another service to look into. They also said they could write a report detailing our conversation and submit it to my new psychiatrist once I have seen her. All information remains confidential and is only accessible by Peel police internally.

All in all, it was a good experience, which helped to ease my fear of police and opening up to strangers.

Perhaps one day it will change.

The downside is that due to the volume of calls, and the lack of funding for trained Mental Health Officers, it leaves only six teams to deal with about 700,000 people meaning that this is a one-time service. I am hoping that as the number of people with mental health issues increase that eventually the funding will have to come, out of necessity if nothing else. In an ideal world, all officers would be trained to deal with people with mental health disorders, which would eliminate thousands of unnecessary trips to the ER, where they also don’t have the ability to deal with you.

I have to say, I am disappointed that this could not be a “lifeline” of sorts, and I am back to the futility of crisis lines, but for the time being, it is what it is, and perhaps one day it will change.

Jody Betty is a guest blogger for SickNotWeak who, in her own words, is a master at the art of survival. She lives with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and is co-afflicted with MDD, Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She has survived three serious suicide attempts and a handful of overdoses which lets her know it isn’t her time. You can read her blog “Raw and Open” posted tri-weekly on Thursdays on SNW.


Donna Hudson

Jody, I am proud of you for reaching out for help. I know you were hesitant, but I am glad you had a positive experience. I wish that I was strong enough to reach out for help, but for now I don’t feel comfortable doing that. Please never forget that you are important in many people’s lives.

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