In an article we were reading recently about depression and the pandemic, we noticed the importance of “check-in calls.” Dr. Gary Sachs, from the Harvard Medical School, noted that not only are check-in phone calls helpful for those who receive them, they also help the people making the calls. After making a call, the caller “actually feels better than they had before.”
Our staff members have been calling our consumers on the phone to see how they are feeling, whether they need anything or if their symptoms are changing. It is an important form of outreach when office visits are not possible.
Check-in calls are not just for professionals. They are one of the most important ways you can stay connected to your friends and people you care about. A friend recently mentioned that she is making three calls each day to people she wishes she could see. “It pushes back the loneliness,” she said.
So, when you dial the number and the person answers, what are you going to say? Being yourself is the most important thing, but here are a few other ideas:
- Remind them of a happy time. “Hi, Bruce, this is Tom. I was just remembering the Royals game we went to last year, and it made me want to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hello.’” If there’s not a particular moment that comes to mind, a simple, “I was just thinking about you” will do just fine.
- Ask something about the future. “What’s the first restaurant you want to visit when everything opens up again,” or “Where do you want to drive to when we get the ‘all clear’ sign?’” are two ideas. Remind them that we won’t be homebound forever!
- Ask how they are doing, and don’t be afraid to share how you are doing. That will make it feel more of a conversation than a call-in cross-examination. “I’m feeling isolated enough that I’m calling three friends a day just to stay in touch. How are you doing?” is a way of inquiring without sounding pushy.
- WHAT TO DO IF IT SOUNDS LIKE YOUR FRIEND MIGHT BE CONSIDERING SUICIDE? We at Tri-County agree with Mental Health First Aid’s ALGEE approach:
- ASSESS for risk of suicide or harm. (It’s okay to ask if they are considering suicide.)
- LISTEN non judgmentally
- GIVE reassurance and information
- ENCOURAGE appropriate professional help
- ENCOURAGE self-help and other support strategies
If you or someone you know needs help, call Tri-County’s number (816-468-0400) for help, 24 hours a day, 365 days per week. They can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741)
Check-in calls are important for everyone. In some cities, they are using phone banks like political campaigns to check in on people, though we here at Tri-County think that picking up the phone and calling someone on your mind is a great way to help that person, and you, too!