Old habits are hard to break. No one knows this better than retired St. Tammany Parish residents Lou and Betty, married more than 60 years.
Outwardly, Lou was known as a good friend, popular and active in his community. But inwardly, a problem haunted him for most of his marriage. Often and without warning, he flew into extreme fits of verbal rage. Lou always felt ashamed and frustrated after an outburst. Betty felt hurt, helpless and alone. Their friends had no idea.
Over the years, Lou tried getting help through religion or therapists, but nothing worked. When his son tragically took his own life after struggling with depression, the crisis added to Lou’s burden and led him to Volunteers of America. It took a call to our Crisis Response Program for him to finally discover ways to control his rage.
He talked to Suzanne, a licensed social worker with the program, who listened carefully. Suzanne persistently reached out to help the couple, discussing coping skills and encouraging Lou to attend a 12-step program for those with similar challenges. She found him transportation to the meetings. Slowly, Lou learned ways to prevent his escalating anger. He admitted his struggles to others in the program and took responsibility for his actions. And, he discovered the painful truth that he had long suffered from untreated post traumatic stress since his Korean War combat service.
Lou sincerely apologized to Betty for the pain he’d caused over the years. Gradually–with the commitment of Suzanne and group support–Lou’s anger issues have begun to dissolve. Betty says Lou is truly a changed man. “Life is so much better now.”
The Crisis Response Program helps many in St. Tammany cope with behavioral health problems. The goal always is to intervene before a crisis escalates. Our staff is committed to offering hope and real-life solutions. As Lou’s experience shows, it’s never too late, or too early, to ask for help.
Over the past five years the suicide rate in St. Tammany Parish has risen over 30 percent. Last year, 39 people took their own lives in St. Tammany Parish and there were more than 480 attempted suicides. Based on last year’s statistics, about 17 out of every 100,000 in the parish committed suicide, which is about six more than the national average. In the first four months of 2011 there were 7 suicides.
On August 1, 2011 Volunteers of America, in partnership with St. Tammany parish, began the Crisis Response Program to prevent suicide, save lives, and address mental health issues before they escalate. The program has two components: response to a mental health crisis at the request of first responders and follow-up after the immediate crisis has ended. In the first month of operation, the program received 33 mental health emergency calls.
Calls are sent to the Crisis Response Team through the sheriff’s office. When someone calls 911 and reports suicidal thoughts or a suicide attempt, the deputy calls the Crisis Response answering service. At that point, Volunteers of America counselors deploy to a crisis scene and make a recommendation to first responders about a course of treatment. Counselors act as liaisons between first responders, medical personnel and families. In addition, follow-up and after-care will ensure that families follow through with referrals and services recommended. A comprehensive plan of treatment for the individual in crisis and his/her family is developed, if needed.
This person-centered, client-driven family stabilization plan is designed to help families with establishing and achieving goals. Crisis response counselors are also available to provide community training and education.
The Crisis Response team is comprised of two full-time mental health professionals, one case manager and nine part-time on-call crisis response counselors, who are also mental health professionals. There is someone on call 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Learn more on our website.