/ April 14, 2021

NYC Well: One in a million

Whenever Zisa Azisa (pronouns: they/them/theirs) needed to talk to someone, an NYC Well counselor was there to listen.

Zisa, a case manager for adolescent youth in Queens, lives with a dual diagnosis of schizoaffective bipolar disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Today, they treat their mental illness with medication and therapy, a combination that has helped Zisa maintain stability in their life. Zisa says NYC Well played an important role in the journey to get where they are today.

Before Zisa was connected to ongoing treatment, they turned to NYC Well for interim therapeutic support. When untreated, their illness can cause mood swings, insomnia, irritability, grandiosity and psychosis – symptoms that can be extremely disruptive to daily life. Zisa found that conversations with NYC Well counselors could help them de-escalate emotions and self-regulate.

“There was an intense time in my life when I was calling NYC Well once or twice a week,” recalls Zisa. At times, the calls to NYC Well prevented a walk to the nearby hospital for emergency psychiatric care. Many New Yorkers have experienced something similar: more than 20 percent of surveyed NYC Well users say they would have considered calling 911 or going to the emergency room without NYC Well.

For Zisa, having someone to talk to helped resolve issues long before they disrupted parts of their life that supported stability, like relationships and employment. Zisa’s work with young people requires emotional engagement, and can sometimes trigger strong psychological reactions. In a painful instance when Zisa felt a supervisor in a former job was using their mental illness to gaslight them, Zisa left work and dialed 888-NYC-Well. As Zisa walked around the block, a counselor helped them process the experience, so they could return to work and address the issue productively.

Zisa encourages people to contact NYC Well. Having been in therapy consistently for two years now, Zisa sees extraordinary value in the helpline as an entryway to long-term support for people living with mental illness, whether through referrals and online resources, or simply helping people learn to ask for help.

“Although seeking help evokes feelings of vulnerability, it also confers the possibility for immense resilience,” says Zisa. “The ability to reach out to another human being and receive some kind of support or compassion over the phone can really make or break your day.”

Community mental health program: NYC Well

NYC Well provides a single point of entry to the City’s mental health and substance misuse services via comprehensive 24/7/365 support over the phone, through text messaging, or through online chat. NYC Well provides robust crisis counseling, referrals to ongoing care, help with scheduling appointments, connection to mobile crisis services, peer support, and follow-up. NYC Well works to connect people to appropriate services regardless of insurance or immigration status. During the COVID-19 pandemic, NYC Well responded to an increased need. NYC Well answered 17% more calls in May 2020 than in May 2019, and more calls in June 2020 than in June 2019. There were more than 120,000 visits to the NYC Well website in April 2020 – up 400% from April 2019.  Any New Yorker in need – or who knows someone in need – can call 888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355), text WELL to 65173, or chat online at nyc.gov/nycwell. Learn more about the program and its impact here.