It wasn’t long after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in New York that Amudim realized that along with the physical threat posed by COVID, a devastating mental health crisis was about to unfold before our very eyes. By the time New York State ordered all non-essential workers to stay home just days later, our phones were already being flooded with calls from those struggling to cope with the possibility of life-threatening illness, financial hardships, extended school closures, food shortages and more. With the proverbial writing already appearing on the wall, we launched our anonymous support line in record time, with over 100 volunteer licensed mental health professionals offering free confidential help to anyone in need.
More than 2,800 calls were made to our support line over the past six months on issues including coronavirus worries, general anxiety, abuse, addiction and recovery, children’s mental health and domestic violence, among others. It was extremely rewarding to see that over 79 percent of those who called the support line reported that they got the help they needed, with no follow up care or further intervention required. And while callers had the ability to remain anonymous, there were those who shared some information with us, giving us the ability to appreciate that we were assisting people in 27 American states as well as Israel, Canada, England, Belgium, Germany, Mexico and Switzerland.
Having reached so many positive milestones in the war against the pandemic and with professional mental health care more easily accessible, the need for a dedicated emergency call center has dissipated and we are closing both the American and Israeli COVID support lines. As always, Amudim’s phone lines remain open to anyone in need, including those who are experiencing COVID-related difficulties.
When we first launched the support line, we never imagined just how crucial it would prove to be during the crisis. We know of dozens of individuals who had suicidal thoughts and had taken active steps towards ending their lives that were saved by a call to the support line. Just a week ago, I received a text from someone who said that a 90-minute call to the support line gave her the strength to get the help she needed, saving her life. We have also received grateful calls from multiple mental health professionals and psychologists whose clients benefitted tremendously by having the ability to reach out to the support line for help, especially on shabbosos and yomim tovim.
None of this could have happened without the tremendous dedication and selfless devotion of over 100 volunteer mental health professionals, as well as the diligent and heartfelt efforts of a group of key individuals including, but not limited to Dr. David Pelcovitz, Dr. Shloimie Zimmerman, Dr. Chaim Nissel, Dr. Shmuel Mandelman, Dr. Hindie Klein, Dr. Faye Zakheim, Amudim clinical director Myriam Lankry and Amudim support line coordinator Fay Landau, all of whom gave up time from their families, personal lives and patients to ensure that no call went unanswered. Our partners at Child & Adult Psychology Services, Empower Health Center, Madraigos Midwest, Naaleh Cleveland, Nesivos, Neshamos, Relief Resources, Shalom Task Force and the UJA played a key role in staffing the support line and also crucial were specialized training sessions by Dr. Nissel, Dr. Shana Frydman of Shalom Task Force, Dr. David Pelcovitz, and Dr. Zimmerman, providing a critical education on the extenuating circumstances of COVID including suicidality, domestic violence and assisting victims who were quarantining with their abusers, as well as other areas of concern.
Even as we close the COVID support line, we are very much aware of the ongoing need for mental health services during these uncertain times. The support line number will remain active to anonymously connect callers with available support and crisis hot lines. Amudim is grateful to have had the opportunity to do our part during the height of the crisis and as we continue moving in a positive direction, we look forward to assisting those who call our offices so that we can continue doing our part to change lives and build futures.
If you or someone you know need help, contact Amudim at 646-517-0222 (USA), 02-374-0175 (Israel) or email [email protected]
Zvi Gluck is the CEO of Amudim, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction within the Jewish community and has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 20 years. For more information or to make a donation, visit Amudim online at www.amudim.org.