Many think of the winter holidays as a time of love and joyful celebration, but the holiday season can be stressful too. From holiday party obligations and family dynamics, to the pressure to find that perfect gift, to the media fixation on Christmas and the lack of representation for other religious observances, the holiday season can be an emotional and psychological pressure cooker.
According to a new poll from the American Psychological Association, almost 89% of Americans feel stressed during the holidays. And in a 2022 survey, 55% of Americans said they get the winter blues, which are frequently exacerbated by loneliness.
The United States is dealing with a mental health crisis. Happily for those of us in Southeast Iowa, a broader range of mental health services are available to help us cope.
Elevate, a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC), is now offering important crisis services in Southeast Iowa, including a Mobile Crisis Unit.
Based out of Waterloo, Elevate has been successfully running a northern Mobile Crisis unit over the last three years. Their northern unit covers 12 counties, and they have expanded into Southeast Iowa—serving Jefferson, Washington, Keokuk, Louisa, Lee, Van Buren, Henry, and Des Moines counties.
The Mobile Crisis Responder team consists of two professionals who are available on call 24/7. “Our responders are trained specifically in mental health first aid as well as situational awareness and risk assessment,” explains Amie Gossage, Mobile Crisis Assistant Director of Southeast Iowa. The team includes EMTs, firefighters, medical professionals, social workers, licensed clinicians, and peer support specialists. Gossage feels that having such an eclectic variety of team members ensures that they provide the most well-rounded care possible. Their differing backgrounds and perspectives complement each other, allowing Elevate to provide more wide-ranging care so they can “work together to help the individual in the best way possible.”
Mobile Crisis Services travels to deal with a situation on site, and are often referred by law enforcement. When dealing with emergency situations, their focus is on creating a plan to keep people safe for 24 hours. After that, they offer community-based services which involve a five-day crisis stabilization program, which can be set up in a home or in the community. They also provide residential crisis stabilization for youth anywhere in the Southeast Iowa area. They have partnered with Optimae for this program, and can set things up at an individual’s school. The program involves having the individual meet with a licensed clinician and a family coordinator, and then coming up with concrete goals.
“These are services that have been lacking in our community,” Gossage says. “In this day and age, a lot of people struggle with mental health, and they don’t really know where to turn. Sometimes there’s no transportation to resources, or they don’t know how to access the resources that are available.” She explains that the Mobile Crisis Unit can give people a “little bit of a leg up and can help establish different coping skills.” She adds that “utilizing our service can also benefit other emergency services. It frees up law enforcement for things that are actually crimes.”
Gossage thinks that normalizing and destigmatizing mental health issues are incredibly important. “With stigma comes avoidance. And that’s when the real problems happen. It’s better to talk about the things first and foremost, so that we can do what we can to mitigate any harm before it happens,” she says. “The majority of people have struggled with some sort of mental health issue at some point in their life. It happens to everybody and it’s okay to reach out and ask for help.”
She adds, “Everyone faces a crisis at some point. Maybe they can’t pay their rent. Sometimes people are homeless. Maybe they’re having a hard time because they got into an argument with their partner or their spouse. Or maybe they have somebody that they care about who is struggling with mental health and they don’t know what to do to help, and that’s brought them into some sort of mental distress. There are many different kinds of crises. The only way for us as a community and as a society to beat the mental health crisis is to destigmatize it.”
To access services, call or text Elevate’s partners at 988 or Your Life Iowa—call (855) 581-8111 or text (855) 895-8398. They will dispatch mobile crisis responders directly to your location. Because 988 is a national service and dispatches responders based on your area code, you may need to specify you are in Southeast Iowa.
For more information, please visit Elevate, (Please note, Elevate’s website is primarily connected with the clinic in Waterloo.)