Mental health professionals see an uptick in mental health emergencies

Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 4:29 PM CDT
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MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) - Mental health professionals are working closely with first responders as Northeast Wisconsin has seen an increase in mental health emergencies since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was last month when Anna Pressley was driving across the Racine Street bridge in Menasha on her way home from work. It was dark at the time, but she still noticed something on the bridge that caused her to turn around and cross it again. She ended up finding a young man, contemplating suicide.

“I just kept talking to him and talking to him and he just kept telling me he wanted to die and he’s about to jump,” says Anna Pressley.

Lt. Matt Spiegel from Menasha PD was the first officer on the scene. His body camera capturing the the conversations he, along with Pressley, a mom of five, had with the young man who just wanted to see his mom. The two calmly talk with the man, eventually getting him onto the sidewalk side of the railing.

It’s calls like these police say they are responding to more often than before. According to Lt. Spiegel, “We have seen an uptick in this type of thing, but you really don’t think about it too much until you’re actually involved in some of those calls and then you take a step back and your realize what an impact this is really having.”

Local mental health professionals say the coronavirus pandemic is leading to more incidents like the one on the bridge.

“When the pandemic first started we recognized that suicide risk factors were increasing and the mitigating protective factors were decreasing,” says Sarah Bassing-Sutton, Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator with N.E.W. Mental Health Connection.

And now there’s a push to track these incidents in order to get people the help they need and let them know recovery is possible. Bassing-Sutton adds, “I think to focus on where there is really hope and help is the way to try and get people to understand that they’re not alone and we do have available resources.”

With hopes that incidents, like the one on the bridge, don’t need to happen.

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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