In the start of the eighth-grade year in 2013, Julia Tannenbaum had been battling an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression for months. She was terrified to inform anyone.
Then, in the course of a school day that fall, she hit a breaking point.
“Julia was just in a tremendous state of crisis, just emotionally out of control,” says her mom, Katherine Wilson. “We did not know what was happening with her. However, she could not function.”
Alarmed by Tannenbaum’s behavior, the varsity dialed a familiar three-digit number. But it surely wasn’t an ambulance that showed up to the center school – it was a clinician from Connecticut’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Services program, which deploys trained clinicians to mental health emergencies in homes, schools, and communities. Individuals can call 2-1-1 to access it.
“Children are very completely different than adults,” says Tim Marshall, director of community mental health in Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families. “The commonest error is to treat children as little adults when they’re not.”
It has been more than three years since Tannenbaum, now 19, was last hospitalized, and she’ll head to college this August. She says her interactions with the crisis clinicians weren’t “a quick fix or anything. However, I undoubtedly feel like it was the place to begin of the long and messy journey that was my recovery.”
Connecticut’s Mobile Crisis program has existed in some type for about 20 years; however, it has evolved as the need for such a service has grown. There have been nearly 20,000 calls to the program in fiscal 2018, up from an estimated 5,000 calls in fiscal 2009, and the vast majority resulted in a response from a Mobile Crisis provider.