988 One Year Later: What We Know

Anne Rulo 988 One Year Later What We Know Partners in Prevention

Just over a year ago, I sat at our prevention conference, mouth agape at the sheer ambition of the 988 plan. The federal government, in partnership with the states, was planning to launch a nationwide system of crisis intervention for mental health, suicide, and substance use in the summer of 2022. The goals were strategic, smart, and almost unfathomable given how the system of crisis mental health care had previously operated. (Preview below or link to full article here.)

These were just a few highlights:

  • Change the previous ten-digit suicide lifeline number and make it easier to remember. Just as 911 is associated with emergencies for fire, medical, crimes, etc., the number for mental health crises would become 988.
  • Create a “no wrong door” integrated crisis system focused on meeting mental health crisis needs at the lowest effective level. This included confidential call, text, and chat hotline options, mobile crisis response teams, and behavioral health crisis centers, with final stops at the hospital only as needed.
  • The availability of help from these additional points of entry would not only reduce healthcare spending but also help keep our law enforcement officers where they are needed instead of implementing jail time or spending long hours in hospitals waiting on evaluations.

In Missouri, I remember hearing we were one of the few states who had prepared and were ready for the “soft launch” on July 16, 2022. I also remember seeing these charts that helped explain how this was designed to work in our state and local areas.

Anne Rulo 988 One Year Later What We Know Partners in Prevention

Anne Rulo 988 One Year Later What We Know Partners in Prevention

Anne Rulo 988 One Year Later What We Know Partners in Prevention

Anne Rulo 988 One Year Later What We Know Partners in Prevention

988 One Year Later: How’s it Going?

Back at this same conference, one year later, I was very interested to hear how this ambitious goal had been operating in real-time since the launch the summer before. Here are some of the highlights:

  • In just the first month of implementation, calls increased by 30%. It has continued to increase since that time but, the number of hospitalizations has not significantly increased. This is a nod to the effectiveness of lower-intensity interventions when someone is in crisis.
  • Trained specialists are available 24/7/365 and calls are answered in less than 30 seconds. There are options for different languages and special populations such as veterans and the deaf community. On the very rare occasion that lines are full, there is a nationwide backup center to answer all overflow calls.
  • For the full list of updated highlights click here for the full article at Partners in Prevention! Thanks to Missouri PIP for the privilege to publish with you!

To All the Coaches I’ve Loved Before

I wrote this years ago but goodness, does it hit me in the feels again as summer begins. Blessings to all those men and women who spend their summers and their seasons investing in their players and the community. We love you.

(See preview below or link to Friday Night Wives for the full post.)

Anne Rulo Friday Night Wives To All the Coaches I've Loved Before

Early in our marriage, I accompanied my husband to a Glazier clinic in Chicago. It was my first football clinic, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We arrived in the hotel parking lot, grabbed our bags, and headed in.

The sight that met me inside those doors was one I will never forget—and one I have not stopped loving since.

There they were, a sea of men.

Old and young, many with excellent beards, all of them wearing football apparel. They milled about carrying bags, checking in, and saying, “Hey Coach!” “Hi Coach!” And,“Hey Coacher, long time no see. How’d the season go?”

As I looked around, my heart swelled. These were my people.

Even though I didn’t know them, I knew I loved all of them. It felt like the way a sister loves a brother, or a mother loves her son, because that’s exactly what it was. A room full of brothers. A room full of sons.

A room full of kindred spirits who were gathered together because they were doing the same work we were, all over the country.

As I reflect on that moment, and the many clinics we’ve been to since then, I wanted to highlight a few of these coaches and why I love them. So here’s to you, the coaches I’ve loved before.

The Young Coach

You, precious 22 or 23-year-old, I see you. I see you looking around at all these men, wondering what your coaching career might look like. I see you attend the sessions with your heroes. I see the stars in your eyes and the insecurity in your youth. We love you so much.

We may even especially love you in your singleness because some coach’s family somewhere gets to take care of you for a bit through dinners, holidays, or a Sunday afternoon watching ball until your own wife comes along. We love you, young coach.

The Old Coach

You, ol’ ball coach, I almost can’t see you for the tears in my eyes. I see you standing there, slightly hunched, slower than the men on your staff. Your voice is gruff from years of coaching, and you aren’t trying so hard to fit in anymore.

You’ve learned what’s important and you’re cool with going to bed early while the young guys stay up shooting the breeze. You have literally impacted the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of young men, and somehow survived the many minefields of the career. We love you, old coach.

The Assistant Coach

You, right-hand man, are more valuable than you know. You may want the big job someday, or you may be content with your role as it is. Regardless, you provide a foundation for your head coach that he can never fully thank you for. The hours of film, the days in the off-season, the boys you love with everything you’ve got even though your name is never the one on the interview. Dependable. Steady. Always ready. You are the man. We love you assistant coach.

The Head Coach

You, a leader in the school. You, a figurehead in the community. I see you, and so does everybody else. You take the praise, but you also take the bullets. When the team does well, you praise the boys and the men on your staff. When the team does poorly, you say you need to do better. You spin more plates in the air than you can count and you need a secretary, although you can’t afford one. You sometimes miss the days when you could just coach and love kids, but you know that your leadership is exponentially impacting all involved. We love you head coach.

For additional messages to the Line Coach, Skills Coach, and Atypical Coach, read the full post here.

To the Moms of Graduates: “Afraid Yet Filled with Joy”

As we enter the emotion of graduation season, I want to refer back to a little section of Scripture that touched my heart in an unexpected way this Easter. It’s found where the author describes the reaction of the women at the empty tomb:

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples (Matt. 23:5-8, NIV).

“Afraid yet filled with joy.” I’m certain this was not my first time hearing those words. But, for whatever reason, this relatable mix of emotions hit me afresh. It felt like, “Of course. Afraid yet filled with joy. No matter what century it is, women know exactly what it means to experience those two feelings at the same time.”

My next thought (maybe because it’s spring?) was for a very specific group of Moms. A group of Moms who, because I am a high school coach’s wife, are near and dear to my heart. They are the Moms of the graduates. Their specific mix of “afraid yet filled with joy” is something I get the privilege to witness every year because the graduation of your children is one of those times when “afraid yet filled with joy” feels completely accurate.

And so, Moms of graduates, in this time of busyness, reflection, emotion, and ceremony I wanted to share what came to my mind for you on that Easter morning. I hope it brings you comfort and a smile.

Anne Rulo To the Moms of Graduates: "Afraid Yet Filled with Joy"

For the Moms of Graduates

You’ve done well. No matter whether your kid is graduating with honors or barely scraped by, he or she is probably going to be all right. It’s amazing, pretty much all of them figure it out—eventually. Yes, even the squirrely ones.

The whole transition to being co-adults is a little weird. It’s bizarre to not have the same direction or control you’ve had for the past 18 years. But, it also seems like many families make the transition easier than they thought they would. You will find your way forward in this awkward, neat new stage.

That said, the next four to six years will likely be a mix of, “How much do I help?” and, “Oh sheesh, I hope they’re going to be okay.” But, also at some point in those years, most of you eventually take a deep breath and say, “Huh, looks like they’re going to make it.” So many of these kids who sometimes couldn’t get out of bed or turn their homework in on time do become the most incredible, responsible adults.

You’ve got some really neat moments ahead of you. Things like when they get hired for their first “grown-up job”, weekends and summers at home that feel (mostly) like old times, and “I met someone” who turns out to be the one. It kind of feels like your heart and your eyes are trying to focus as this child of yours turns into a grown-up who manages to capture even more of your heart, tenderness, and respect.

And, now for my favorite stuff. I want you to know that I love seeing you again when we each have a few more wrinkles, you hug me in your fancy dress and I say, “That was a beautiful wedding.” It is also one of my very favorite things when I see mini-me’s of that 18-year-old we knew and you tell me your new title is Gigi/Nana/Granny or whatever else he or she has named you. Really, that part is so much fun.

In short, as your kid graduates, I just want you to hear from someone who has two decades of experience watching graduate after graduate grow up, this really is so much more of a beginning than an end. I know you may feel “afraid yet filled with joy.” But, there are so many beautiful things ahead.

Good job Mama of the graduate. You made it.

PS – For the Mamas I’ve loved who did not or do not get the experience above, I’ve not forgotten you. In fact, my heart is especially tender toward you today. I know some of you are still hoping for a turnaround. And, for others, your journey in this way has ended. I know that graduation season can be a tough one as people hope for futures you and your kiddo didn’t get. Please know you are loved and you and your graduate are remembered and prayed for today.

Considering Going to Therapy? 5 Common Challenges

“If your car isn’t working you would take it to the mechanic.”

“Mental health care is just like physical healthcare. Take care of your body and your mind.”

“Going to a therapist isn’t weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”

Ever heard any of these? Me too. And, as a therapist, I believe them wholeheartedly. But, just because mental health care is as important as physical health care does not mean it is as easy to access. For a variety of reasons, acquiring mental health care can be challenging. Today we will address several of these difficulties and provide ideas and resources to help get the care you need! (To read about each of these obstacles in full, link to the post I wrote with Partners in Prevention below.)

  1. Internal Resistance
  2. External Resistance
  3. Cost
  4. Finding a “Good Therapist”
  5. Wait Time

Violent News & Weather Coverage: Strategies for Staying Both Informed & Emotionally Safe

Intense news and weather reports are nothing new to our experience. However, in the past couple of weeks, we have encountered some particularly violent events including tornadoes that have wiped out portions of entire towns and a devastating school shooting in Nashville.

One challenging mental health aspect of these events is the increasingly transparent media coverage, released raw information/footage, and reduced choice over how much we see and know. Thus, as the strategies and permissions behind media coverage continue to evolve, it is important to consider how to responsibly keep ourselves informed, but also as mentally and emotionally safe as possible.

Violent News & Weather Coverage: Strategies for Staying Both Informed & Emotionally Safe Anne Rulo Partners in Prevention

Violent News Coverage

In truth, the motivation for this particular article came from my own recent, real-life experiences with 1) friends who deal with weather fear and 2) the Nashville school shooting. Only a few days after three children and three staff members were killed at Covenant School, I found myself in a hospital waiting room for my own child’s surgery. And, while her medical procedure was fairly minor, as a parent I was of course a little anxious.

As I walked through the hospital and sat in the waiting room I was unable to avoid looped video footage of the Nashville school shooter walking the halls of the school wielding a large assault weapon. These images did not serve to lower my anxiety and, I had been trying so hard to avoid the embedded videos, 911 call logs, and images for my own mental/emotional safety. The lack of control over what I heard and saw in a public space felt defeating.

Violent News & Weather Coverage: Strategies for Staying Both Informed & Emotionally Safe

Of course, it is important to understand what is going on in our world. However, it is also important to understand how we can stay informed without being traumatized. Here are some strategies for managing violent news coverage:

  • Know your personal limits. Reading/viewing something once is sometimes enough. It is not essential to expose your mind and emotions repeatedly to information to understand an experience. Everyone has their own capacity to manage this type of input.
  • You can care without being “fully aware.” This is a hard one for empaths like me. I am deeply aware that, unlike the parents who lost their children that day, I have the privilege of not being immersed in that experience. However, sometimes we feel as though we must be able/willing to look at all the pain to fully honor it. However, no one is served by us being wounded or triggered on their behalf. The human heart can care without being fully submerged in the trauma.
  • Disengage as necessary. In my situation, I can’t unsee what I saw that day. But I did move to a different area of the waiting room and for the days prior, I read enough to know what happened and then stayed off the news until the footage slowed down.

Severe Weather Coverage

Severe weather is another aspect of the news that can be triggering. Of course, not everyone has a strong reaction to potential severe weather but, for those that do, it can be an overwhelming experience of anxiety…

To finish reading tips to manage emotional safety during severe weather coverage, link here. Thanks to Partners in Prevention at the University of Missouri for our continued partnership to publish this type of content!

Identifying—and Challenging—Our Biases

“As a general rule, we can only do better when we know better. We only know better when we lean in, listen, reflect, and grow.”

Anne Rulo Wheaton Identifying Challenging Our Biases Christianity Today

As a therapist, one of the great privileges I had in my career was teaching a foundational course for graduate students in counseling. It was an introduction to the profession, with opportunities for reflection on why my students wanted to become therapists and what internal obstacles might trip them up.

One of my favorite lessons each semester was the evening we spent considering our biases. Therapists are called to be aware of our personal biases and avoid imposing them on clients. This requires individuals to examine themselves. Many of my students had never intentionally, publicly, or honestly gone through this process.

The exercise was always the same. I would ask my students to think through different people groups and observe their gut reactions. The goal was to consider which groups they may have trouble working with based on their personal values or experiences. Then, we would share.

Each semester, there were always a few who initially believed they were without bias. They claimed to “value all people equally”, “see no color”, and “have friends of all backgrounds.” Usually, one or two students would offer “safe” answers like, “I don’t like criminals” to avoid giving a potentially offensive answer. But at least one student would quietly offer something like, “I sometimes feel nervous around a Black person if I don’t know them.” I could tell that these students felt ashamed, but also that they felt permission to speak honestly.

Often, other students opened up about their biases against people from different cultures, abilities, classes, political parties, or religions. My students didn’t confess these beliefs with confidence. They whispered the words, their voices heavy with the awareness that they didn’t want to feel or think this way. But they did—and so do we.

We cannot live in a world so historically threaded with systemic racism, gender inequality, and political dichotomy without being affected…

To finish reading the full post, link here and thanks to Christianity Today and Wheaton Humanitarian Disaster Institute for the chance to share on your platform!

Embrace the Season

Writing over at The Glorious Table about embracing whatever season God has us in. See below for a preview or link to the full post here.

The year I was born, my Dad took my Mom to the hospital early. If I remember the story correctly, she wasn’t in labor but, she was close enough to her due date that the impending snowstorm had him a little skittish. And there, sometime during the evening, I entered the world. A birthday spent in the snow.

My most recent birthday, forty-two years later, was spent hiking with my family on an uncommonly warm day. I wore knee-length leggings and a short-sleeved shirt, working up quite a sweat as we traveled up and down the terrain for miles. A birthday spent in the sun.

The reason my birthday weather is different every year is that I was born in early March in the midwest. For months in this part of the country you never know if it is going to rain, shine, snow, or some combination of all three. Extreme seasonal fluctuations are commonplace, eliciting the same funny, predictable, memes every time it happens. I just simply can’t count on my birthday to be any one experience. Instead, I just have to wait to see what God provides and make a decision at the moment. Goodness, wouldn’t it be nice if I could be that flexible about other “seasons” in my life?

Like Christmas, which I expect to go a certain way.

Summer vacations should be “just so.”

My kids’ birthday parties I wish would be smooth and stress-free.

The dinner I made was supposed to turn out well.

Or, like tomorrow. For which I certainly have expectations. Expectations that Jesus may, or may not, see the same way.

Anne Rulo Embrace the Season The Glorious Table

The Season We Want Is Not Always the Season We Get

Biblically, the concept of seasons is obviously not just about weather. When God left us Solomon’s wisdom on this in the book of Ecclesiastes, he did not assign any particular time to those descriptions. Instead, he just gave us words. Words that describe opposite ends of the human experience that may pop up at any point, not necessarily because we’ve done anything right. And, not necessarily because we’ve done anything wrong. But, just because he has allowed that “season” for that time. As it says…

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecc. 3:1-8 NIV).

And, in a similar vein from Matthew…

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45 NIV).

In short, we should expect that our experiences or “seasons” in life, whether long or short, important or mundane, are going to vary and that’s part of the design.

Cultivating Peace in Every Season… (to finish the full post, link here).

It’s Birthday Week & My Bible Studies Are On Sale!

For many years before I published anything, I felt I should be writing. And, in an act of even more fear/stubbornness, I had people telling me I should be writing and I still didn’t do it! I lead with this story of resistance because, while it may not be writing, many of us can identify with feeling like we are supposed to do something but we haven’t done it yet. If this is you, I just wanted to say it’s probably not too late, and even delayed compliance can be been pretty darn satisfying. Okay, on to the studies!

For those who are unfamiliar with these books, I thought I would pass along a brief synopsis of each. And then, if you are so inclined, pick up one (or a few!) this week until March 8th while they are on sale for my birthday week. Descriptions below…

Anne Rulo Bible Studies Philippians Colossians James Cultivating Joy The God Blanket When Faith Does

Cultivating Joy (Philippians)

Cultivating Joy was the very first study I put out in 2018. It covers the book of Philippians and the practices and principles Paul uses to cultivate joy, rather than frustration or disappointment. It has a lot of practical applications that are influenced by my training as a mental health therapist and more than a few amusing thoughts and stories. As with all of the studies, it is designed with all of the verses, reading, and questions included for five weeks of study, four days of study per week. To order link here.

The God Blanket (Colossians)

The God Blanket came out in the fall of 2020 and was a unique labor of love during the pandemic. Of the three, it is the most “theologically dense” and challenged me in research and history in ways the others did not. It has some neat ties to the Old Testament and, despite the intensity of some of the text, consistently returns to a theme of us forever and always being “covered” by Christ’s sacrifice. As with all of the studies, it is designed with all of the verses, reading, and questions included for five weeks of study, four days of study per week. To order link here.

When Faith Does (James)

I have a unique affection for each book, kind of the way you feel about children’s unique personalities. James came out in the fall of 2022 and was a totally different experience. Not only was it my first book not authored by Paul, but James’s teaching is so direct. If you are looking for a grace-covered kick in the pants, this is your study. It’s hard but good, just as life and God are sometimes. I love the way he asks us to change and how convinced I am to do so as he makes his case. As with all of the studies, it is designed with all of the verses, reading, and questions included for five weeks of study, four days of study per week. To order link here.

Just as I started, I will end. I’m so glad I started writing. It has been more satisfying than I ever imagined. And, it’s been even cooler that people actually care to read what I write. Thanks for all the support folks and I encourage you to jump on in if God is calling you to something. It’s a wild and awesome ride.

The Beauty of Long Friendship

Writing over at the Glorious Table about long friendships and Amish Friendship Bread. It’s a good combo. See below for a preview or link to the full post here.

Many years ago, someone gave me a “starter” of Amish friendship bread. As I don’t cook, bake, or really do much of anything that falls under the “domestically gifted” category, I had never done this before. I remember holding that bag of goo and reading the instructions, learning that I had to do something to it each day for (wait for it) ten days! For those familiar with this patience-developing pastry, this will not shock you. But, for a girl whose idea of baking mostly includes breaking apart pre-made cookie dough squares that are done in 10-12 minutes, this was quite a stretch.

As ridiculous as it seemed to repeatedly squash a bag of goo for ten days, occasionally adding ingredients, I did it. Why? Partly because I was curious, partly because I am a compulsive rule-follower, and partly because I had been given the bag of goo from a friend and I felt obligated. You can’t give a bag of goo with instructions to a girl like me and not expect it to be followed, at least once. What I didn’t see coming was how many times I was going to follow those ten days of instructions. Because, as it turns out, Amish friendship bread is incredible.

The first time I got to the ten-day mark, I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. I’m reasonably sure that I must have either gone out and purchased a loaf pan or, got out a wedding present that I had never used before to hold the long-suffering goo. I put it in the oven as directed, occupied myself for the required hour of cooking (again, what is with the patience needed for this bread?!), and then dumped its sugary-crusted cinnamon-y awesomeness out onto a cooling rack. I know I said I’m no chef but even I could tell, this looked and smelled incredible.

Needless to say, the Amish friendship bread did not make it through its first evening in our home. Even with no children yet in our family, my husband and I finished it in one night. Knowing it was going to take ten more days to enjoy another one, I got another bag of goo going. And again. And again. I cannot tell you how many rounds of ten days we waited on that bread until eventually, at some point, we decided to cut ourselves off. As wonderful as it was, it probably wasn’t good for either of us to keep eating a full loaf of it in one day, even if it was every ten days. But I’m sure glad for the experience, and the parallels it made along the way.

Anne Rulo The Beauty of Long Friendship

Amish Friendship Bread Mimics Life

Amish friendship bread gets its name from its origins in the Amish culture and community. The history I read suggests that this was originally a simple sourdough starter that was served regularly in Amish homes. Additionally, the easily sharable starter bags were also shared with sick or needy families so they could maintain a bread supply in their own homes. From there, it seems to have developed into more of a dessert or creative baked good, passing between groups of friends for years to facilitate community and connection.

The parallels of the bread itself to the process of friendship aren’t hard to make but, now having friendships that have lasted as long as some of these starter batches have been around, I’m excited to list a few of them…

To read these connections link to the full post here.