More people seek mental help in Michigan as 988 calls increase

The three-digit number is an easier way for people in Michigan to get access to help right away.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 6:23 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - More and more people in Michigan are paying attention to their mental health and reaching out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline. Just six months after its launch, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said call volumes are up 15% across the state.

“We’re seeing rates of anxiety and depression being high. We’re seeing young people struggling emotionally and that’s why there has been a lot of effort put into school mental health services and the like,” said Dr. Debra Pinals, Medical Director for Behavioral Health at MDHHS.

The three-digit number is an easier way for people in Michigan to get access to help right away. Crisis prevention experts said providing that help comes with some challenges.

“One of the important things that needs to be focused on are wait times,” said Scott Teichmer, a suicide prevention facilitator in Michigan. “So, when somebody calls or texts 988, they’re answered in a relatively short manner so that they’re getting that support.”

He said the spike in calls means more people are recognizing when they need help.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said right now, their focus is picking up the phone.

“So our goal is to get 95% of the calls answered within 20 seconds. We’re doing pretty well – we’re not quite there yet,” said Dr. Pinals.

Teichmer and other experts said 988 calls are on the rise in Michigan because the hotline is not just for people considering suicide, it’s for anyone experiencing isolation, hopelessness, or any kind of emotional distress.

“I think there might be some component of it being marketed more broadly than just to suicide crises. The goal eventually for 988 in anywhere across the country would be, including Michigan, to get people connected to those local resources. So, it’s going to be a while before it comes to full fruition,” said Teichmer.

Like most other states, the MDHHS said they are working on getting more funding to keep the 988 hotline up and running for next year and many years after that. On Thursday, Michigan State Sen. Sarah Anthony, (D) Lansing, introduced three bills to address the mental health crisis in Michigan.

“It’s high time that we take mental health seriously in our state,” Anthony said.

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