116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — A new youth mobile crisis counselor said this week the pandemic continues to exacerbate anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide for many young people who are feeling more isolation as the number of coronavirus cases are on the rise.
Parth Patel, who joined the mobile crisis outreach team at CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank in 2017, was promoted this month to the new position as youth mobile crisis counselor, who will connect with youth in Johnson and Iowa counties.
The nonprofit has 30 on-call mobile counselors who work up to three shifts a month, but Patel will focus on the calls from schools, said Jacob Story, mobile crisis manager. CommUnity has partnerships with Iowa City schools and the Clear Creek Amana School District. All of the other counselors also respond to youth calls at homes.
The Mental Health/Disability Services of the East Central Region provided funding to help support the new position. CommUnity hires the counselors but they work out of the GuideLink Center — one of Iowa’s designated mental health access centers — in Iowa City.
Patel, who has extensive training in youth crisis de-escalation and other trauma-induced behaviors, said he also is seeing stress with parents as well, who may be overwhelmed by changes in schedules and are trying to juggle having their kids in and out of school.
“That’s where mobile crisis can help,” Patel said. “They can provide extra emotional support. We are a free service, 24/7.”
Parents or youth can call the mobile service and two counselors will come out and meet with them in-person or talk over the phone, if that’s more comfortable during this time. Patel said they always get permission from the client first before responding.
The mobile crisis counselors respond to schools, homes, businesses, wherever the mental health crisis is happening.
Patel and Story said parents, friends and loved ones can help someone in crisis by watching for warning signs, such as changes to mood or behavior, social isolating, withdrawing from others, or if someone is feeling lonely and helpless.
“Do more check-ins with them,” Patel said. “It doesn’t take an expert for most people to see changes in mood or behavior.”
Patel and Story said if parents or others suspect the person is having thoughts of suicide, they should ask them and talk about it.
Many parents may not ask the question because they are scared of the answer, Story said.
Patel said it’s difficult because most aren’t use to talking about death or suicide. It’s not an easy issue but it can get easier the more they are open to talking about it. If more help is needed, they only have to make the call for him or another counselor to respond.
Patel said he enjoys working with youth and helping them through a crisis. It’s rewarding for him to help. It allows him to sit with “an individual experiencing intense emotions, allow them to openly express these painful feelings, and then collaborate to identify alternative coping strategies and resources that can promote safety and improved functioning.”
The mobile crisis outreach is available to every member of the community regardless of insurance or socioeconomic status.
Story said the calls have gone up and the team has been averaging about 70 calls a month, with about 12 percent of those involving youth. The mobile team’s response time has been within just over 30 minutes.
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