Paramedics in the New York City (NYC) area have seen an increase in mental health crisis calls over the last few years, and many say it‘s the worst it has ever been. The coronavirus pandemic has taken a notable toll on the mental health of many residents, and paramedics say they are responding to more calls related to depression, anxiety, and self–harm than ever before.
The NYC Fire Department‘s Emergency Medical Service (FDNY EMS) has seen an increase in mental health–related calls since the start of the pandemic. From March 2020 to October 2020, the FDNY EMS responded to more than 40,000 mental health crisis calls, a nearly 40 percent increase from the previous year.
Paramedics say they are responding to more calls related to depression, anxiety, and self–harm than ever before. The number of calls related to substance abuse has also risen significantly. Paramedics report that many of the people they encounter are feeling overwhelmed and isolated and are desperate for help. The surge in mental health crisis calls has put an extra strain on the FDNY EMS, which is already overburdened due to the pandemic.
Paramedics report that they often have to wait for hours for mental health professionals to arrive on the scene, leaving them to manage the situation alone. In response to the increasing number of mental health crisis calls, the FDNY EMS has increased its staffing levels and invested in more training for its employees. Paramedics have received additional training on how to handle mental health crises, including learning how to de–escalate situations and recognize signs of suicidal ideation.
The FDNY EMS has also partnered with organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to provide mental health resources to those in need. Paramedics now carry resources such as lists of mental health providers and suicide prevention hotlines in their vehicles. However, many paramedics feel that these efforts are not enough to address the root cause of the mental health crisis.
They say that the city needs to invest more in mental health services, such as increasing access to affordable counseling, providing more resources to those in need, and changing the stigma around seeking mental health help.
The mental health crisis in NYC is worse than it has ever been, and paramedics are on the front lines of this crisis. They are providing vital care to those in need, but they are also desperate for more resources and support to better serve their patients. It is essential that the city take action to address the root causes of the mental health crisis and invest in the resources and services needed to help those struggling with mental illness.