A woman is shown making a phone call, facing away from the camera.
Specialized Crisis Intervention Team trained officers are responding to significantly more crisis calls than they were four years ago. Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

Cassey Fye, program director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Cleveland, a local affiliate of the national advocacy organization, understands how difficult it is to navigate services for mental health. 

Since the start of pandemic, the group has provided a mixture of virtual, in-person and hybrid programs to help residents impacted by mental illness connect, share stories and build relationships. These efforts are designed to reduce the barriers to accessing safe support in times of need, especially in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. 

“This year has really been a transition for us in thinking how we move on and continue offering support and meeting the needs of folks to engage in those resources,” said Fye. 

The Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County partnered with the Ohio Suicide Prevention Coalition to produce a resource booklet, Coping With The Holidays, offering a list of self-care tips, hotlines and services for residents who are experiencing discomfort or grief during the holiday season. 

Scott Osiecki, CEO of the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County, said that while this year began with a return to a sense of normalcy, the feelings of transition can be overwhelming for those living in recovery from substance use or struggling with mental health challenges. Coping mechanisms can be effective, but support is always available for those in need. 

For example, the 24-hour WarmLine offers peer supporters who experience mental, substance and behavioral health challenges as well and can speak with others who are experiencing mental health stressors. 

“It’s okay to take care of yourself,” said Osiecki. “That’s what we want to let people know. Things don’t have to be perfect, and don’t put undue stress on yourself.” 

For serious emergencies, there is the FrontLine 24-hour crisis line or the 988 hotline, which is also operated through FrontLine Service, a community behavioral health center serving Cuyahoga County. 

The organization is part of a network of 20 call centers that assists with routing emergency mental health and behavioral crisis calls from the national suicide prevention hotline to local and county entities in an effort to provide services without law enforcement assistance. Since July, FrontLine has received 146 calls per day. Roughly 20 percent of those calls received come from the national hotline and have been assisted by FrontLine’s licensed counselors, social workers and mental health professionals. While call volume and peak times vary daily, Oliver said that other hotlines and resources are available for specific needs. 

“I’m hoping that people are learning about the service and calling when they need to,” Oliver said. “But, I understand making access to help people in need is important. And so we want to make sure that people know the number [988] and know the services that they can get from that number.” 

Tips for a healthy holiday season 

Mental health experts and advocates have suggested that feelings of stress, anxiety and depression during this time of year are normal but can produce long-term behavioral and mental health challenges if not addressed. 

A 2021 survey by NAMI found that three out of five Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays. Another study, by the American Psychological Association, found that 45 percent of Americans would prefer to skip the holidays entirely to avoid financial and familial stressors. 

Sheerli Ratner, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at MetroHealth, said that shorter days, less exposure to sunlight and time transitions in winter cause changes in our mental and behavioral health. People also experience “holiday blues,” or short-term feelings of moodiness and/or sadness during the season when there is pressure to feel happy and celebratory. 

The combination of these can produce discomfort, frustration and worsening symptoms for many who have mental health challenges. 

“The holiday blues can manifest differently for different people,” said Ratner. “The key is that [these feelings are] temporary. But, if you’re still experiencing these symptoms afterwards, it may be time to reach out to someone for help.”

Mental health support

If you or someone you know is in crisis, experiencing stress, or need mental health and substance use service, here is a list of agencies that can offer support: 

  • ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County’s 24-Hour Mental Health/ Addiction Crisis Information & Referral Hotline: 216-623-6888 
  • Frontline Services: 24-hour crisis hotline 216-623-6888
  • Suicide prevention hotline: 800-273-TALK or 800-SUICIDE
  • United Way 2-1-1 
  • Crisis Text Line: text “4Hope” to 741741 
  • 24-Hour National Sucide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 
  • 24-Hour Warm Line: 440-886-5950 Need a listening ear? Call the Warm Line, and a peer-supporter will listen and talk you through a hard holiday season. 
  • OhioMHAS COVID Emotional Support Careline: 1-800-720-9616

Health Reporter (she/her)
Candice, a Cleveland Documenter since 2020, has been a freelance writer whose reporting and digital media work have appeared in The Daily Beast, VICE, Cleveland Magazine and elsewhere. She has written about health, equity and social justice.