ST. LOUIS – Thursday morning’s deadly shooting on Interstate 55 appears to be another sign of the mental health crisis facing St. Louis and the rest of the nation. But there are also signs that efforts to do something about it in St. Louis are working.
St. Louis Police Sgt. Colin Tully, who heads the department’s crisis intervention team (CIT), says his unit has handled 10,000 calls since the effort was launched in February 2021.
The CIT is made up of crisis response units, which have an officer who has been trained in mental health and an expert in behavioral health. It is one of the many mental health resources that are now answering calls to the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Tully says that call volume has declined by 20% with more people now getting the services they need.
“You’re seeing these crisis response units handling these calls in minutes, which would have taken a policeman without the mental health help hours to handle,” Tully said.
Marion McCord, executive director of the CHADS Coalition for Mental Health in South St. Louis County, is also part of that army.
CHADS takes it mission of depression awareness and suicide prevention to 60,000 area young people each year, providing counseling services to hundreds, she said.
Her son took his life on I-55 in 2004 at age 18. We can all help by paying attention to warning signs, she said.
“There might be a change in my eating habits. There might be a change in my sleeping habits, decreased energy, not doing the things you used to love to do, ability to concentrate, activity level,” she said. “Most importantly, not to be afraid to ask someone if they have a concern, ask that difficult question, ‘Are you having thoughts of suicide?’”
“You’re never going to bother the police by calling. You’re certainly not going to bother the mental health unit. It’s all we do,” Tully said.
If you can’t keep track of all of the warning signs or what to look for, just remember those two things: it’s always ok to ask and it’s always ok to call.