ERAN, Israel's emotional first aid service, offers a confidential 24-hour hotline. All through lockdown the number of calls has increased dramatically, and in the past 10 days, a growing number of them are related to the economic crisis.
"The economic story is more prominent today," says David Koren, CEO of Eran. "A million people have lost their jobs and have been thrown into immense uncertainty. Last night we received two such calls. It's a really difficult reality. So it's no surprise there. We will probably get more."
During the COVID-19 crisis, the number of calls to the mental care hotline, regarding all subjects, increased by more than 300 percent, from about 400 calls a day to about 1,400 calls a day. Calls, according to Koren, are divided into three categories: "anxiety, loneliness and family issues."
But there is a shift: "Throughout the last period we have seen vast fluctuations between the medical side and the economic side of the crisis. In recent weeks, the economic issue has become much more prominent."
Regarding the rise in suicidal ideation, Koren says: "This is something that always comes in stages. In an emergency and times of acute distress, people have a kind of adrenaline response, and cases of suicide temporarily decline. Now you see the jump. Every day there are more inquiries, we saw it coming. About 4 percent of our inquiries are about suicide. Our efficiency and experience are indispensable. During the crisis we've saved 800 people. Our service is so effective at saving lives, it is proven, that what frustrates us is people who have suicidal thoughts and do not communicate, who do not know that dialling 1201 can help."
How do you help a suicidal person experiencing financial distress?
"We talk to them. During the conversation, we will examine if there is an alternative they did not think of. It is important to monitor them and make sure that someone reaches out – Magen David Adom, police, social services. It is important to involve the people close to them as well as professionals – that is a big part of the solution."
"The most important help you can give," Koren adds, "is trivial. It’s to answer the need for people to share, to not be alone, to validate their fears as natural. The fact that you are scared and anxious is certainly legitimate. That's what people mostly need. The mental resilience of the Israeli public is strong, for sure. Some say that in no time there will be millions of people here with PTSD. That's not true. The level of anxiety is certainly within the expected norm for circumstances such as these."
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal ideation during the lockdown, call 1201, the ERAN hotline. Advocates are available to talk 24/7
Brought to press with the help of the International Relations Division of the Histadrut