Is depression creeping in on your holidays? South Florida walk-in clinics now offer mental health support

The holidays may be a season full of joy, but they can also be stressful and difficult for people struggling with isolation, grief, depression, and mental illness. In Broward and Palm Beach counties, walk-in clinics, hotlines and mobile units provide resources for anyone needing immediate mental health support.

In a strip shopping center in Davie, Memorial Healthcare’s Rebels Drop-In Center opened in January and offers support groups, social activities, counseling and peer mentoring seven days a week. It is also open on Christmas and New Year days.

“There is a lot available here for people who are feeling depressed or isolated and don’t want to stay home alone,” said Maria Pilar Dominguez, manager of the Rebels Drop-In Center. “There’s also peer-to-peer one-on-one support.”

Malcolm Butler works on a painting at the Rebels Drop-in Center in Davie. The Memorial Healthcare Drop-in Clinic is open to anyone who needs help dealing with their mental health issues. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

With the pressure of holiday cheer, Malcolm Butler knows that his schizophrenia could easily overcome him. So on a cool Tuesday afternoon, he draws a white cat on the window using small strokes on canvas.

Like Butler, people with varying mental health issues from cities across Broward County come to Rebel’s drop-in center to attend support groups, participate in arts and crafts, join a yoga class or meet with a counselor. .

There is a men’s support group for those struggling with depression who do not have care for their children during the holidays or are in deep grief. There is a women’s support group for those who are anxious or feel lonely.

More serious help for mental conditions

The rear entrance of the same building leads to the Memorial Outpatient Behavioral Health Center, where anyone 15 years of age or older can enter and get evaluated for mental health care.

“There are people who come in and need immediate care. “We do the intake first, and then schedule an appointment for them,” explains Claudia Vicencio, director of Memorial Outpatient Behavioral Health. “Once they’re evaluated, we start the service within five to seven days.” Will do it.”

The center has psychiatrists, mental health counselors and primary care services. It also offers esketamine treatment and transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression-resistant adults.

“With the holiday season upon us, we are busier than usual on the clinical front,” Vicencio said. “We’re seeing a lot of people coming in.”

But she adds, “It’s not for anyone in immediate crisis.”

For children and young adults up to age 26, PM Pediatric Behavioral Health in Coral Springs can see a new patient with a mental health concern within approximately 72 hours, even during the holidays. Anyone can take an appointment online.

Holidays take a toll on mental health

At this time of year, mental health counselors prepare for what is known as the holiday blues, a short-term amplified depression. The bigger risk is that depression can lead to addiction. Additionally, the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 64% of people with mental illness reported that their condition worsened during the holidays.

Feelings of loneliness can also get worse around the holidays. Earlier this year the US Surgeon General issued an advisory drawing attention to the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation and lack of connection. The report notes that people who feel lonely as adults have twice the risk of developing depression compared to those who rarely or never feel lonely.

Julian Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of Social Connections and Health, said, “There’s a lot of media attention on families coming together this time of year, and that increases the comparisons and it can be difficult for some people.” “Increases loneliness.” Lab at Brigham Young University. Speaking during the Cyline webinar, he said anyone can be vulnerable, including young people.

“It’s not just older people…it affects all of us,” he said.

211 crisis counselors at work
A crisis counselor from 211 Broward answers calls to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. (211 Broward/Courtesy)

Hotlines provide immediate assistance

In South Florida, wait times for private physicians and psychiatrists can be weeks or even months. However, anyone feeling isolated or suffering from mental health concerns can call 2-1-1 in Broward and Palm Beach counties and reach a responder who can direct them to services .

“Our call line is always staffed 24 hours a day by someone you can talk to so you know you’re not alone,” said Francisco Isaza, chief operating officer of 211 Broward. “Consumers call us who need assistance that day. Sometimes they will call two or three times in the same day. They may be feeling lonely or struggling with grief. “The most important thing we can do is listen to a person’s story and provide emotional support.”

Isaza said responders can refer callers to therapy, support groups, telehealth services, mobile crisis units or walk-in centers, depending on the situation. “Sometimes talking to someone who can de-escalate the situation helps that person, and emergency crisis services are never needed,” he said.

Anyone in distress can get help

Anyone struggling with a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts in South Florida has options.

They can go to Henderson’s centralized receiving center in Lauderhill and get help, said Dr. Steven Roenick, CEO of Henderson Behavioral Health, which has services in Broward and Palm Beach counties. 4720 N. Staff at the Walk-In Center on State Road 7 can connect walk-in patients with therapists, psychiatrists and other intervention services. They may also observe the patient for up to 23 hours to stabilize him.

“It’s like an urgent care for behavioral health,” Roenick said.

Henderson also has a mobile crisis unit that responds to residents in emotional or mental health crisis, no matter where they are.

“The goal is to make sure the person is safe and resolve the crisis,” Roenick said. The crisis intervention team evaluates on the spot, and may take the person to the hospital, voluntarily or involuntarily, if necessary.

Unless there is an immediate threat, Roenick advises most people in need to start calling 9-8-8, a new mental health and suicide prevention line. Phone calls are answered by local mental health professionals who can talk to someone about their crisis or send a mobile crisis unit to their home if they suspect it is needed.

“I want to emphasize to the public that they don’t need to think about it,” Roenick said. “If they think they’re in trouble, they dial three digits. This gets them started, and the responding professional can get to what else may be needed.”

Of course, anyone in crisis can also go to a hospital emergency department. Not every hospital is staffed with mental health professionals. But few do, and those who don’t may transfer the patient to a hospital that has less staff.

Dr. Daniel Bober, chief of psychiatry at Memorial Regional Hospital, sees adults who arrive at the emergency room and pose a danger to themselves or others. The hospital also has a young psychiatrist on staff.

He said, “For a lot of people, the holidays bring up painful things like addiction, loss, trauma… What they see is an empty seat at the table or a promise not kept, or a dream that hasn’t been fulfilled.” Has not happened.” “They can become addicted and that leads to suicidal thoughts.”

Bober estimates that about half of the people who arrive at the emergency department in crisis are admitted and the other half go home with a plan of care. The admitted patient can be detained for 72 hours. He said, after this they will have to sign as voluntary admission.

“Often, just taking some time away from the situation can be somewhat therapeutic,” Bober said. “They need a place to cool off. Medication or restraints may be required in some scenarios, and by the next morning, often the patient can go home.

Bober said every hospital’s emergency department must see someone in crisis, but if they don’t have professionals on staff, they will transfer patients to a hospital that does.

“Western society tells us this is a time to be happy,” he said. “If you’re in crisis and you have to decide what to do, it’s better to err on the side of caution and go to the ER.”

Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Goodman can be reached at

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