Content warning: This article contains references to suicide.
Since the start of the pandemic, local, national and global crises have contributed to a continued increase in mental health issues in the community. Increased funding and more accessible mental health resources provide solutions and connect those suffering with quality care.
This academic year, UNC has an opportunity to capitalize on advances in mental health care and to enhance the University’s existing support systems for students, faculty and community members.
A new suicide and crisis hotline is currently available for community use, according to the UNC Counseling and Psychological Services website. The number — 988 — is just three digits, making it much easier to remember than its 10-digit predecessor: 800-273-8255.
Instead of the police, calling 988 will connect the caller to a national network of local crisis centres. The purpose of the number is to reduce calls to 911 for mental health crises, hopefully reducing law enforcement response during mental health emergencies, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. A lack of police training for mental health emergencies has resulted in two million people with mental health problems being jailed in the past year. Additionally, SAMSHA reported that nearly a quarter of fatal police shootings over the past year involved those with mental illness.
People of color are disproportionately affected by police brutality. For example, black men are twice as likely to be killed by police as their white counterparts, according to the Washington Post. Therefore, they are even more likely to be killed by violence stemming from mental health emergencies.
In addition to the new hotline, federal financial support for mental health has increased. Instead of the $24 million previously appropriated, the Biden administration has invested $432 million in mental health services to support anticipated calls to 988. This money will support local and backup call centers, as well as a subnet for speakers Spanish using the hotline.
Funding for mental health resources has also been a topic of conversation with the UNC community.
UNC has historically struggled to meet the demand for quality mental health resources on campus. In recent semesters, waiting lists for brief individual therapy sessions, insufficient funding, and a lack of options for long-term mental health care have been persistent. problems related to the University’s CAPS program.
Last spring, students expressed concerns about UNC’s mental health resources, and a petition circulated about community calling for increased CAPS funding. In response, CAPS was confirmed to receive $81,667 in additional funding for fiscal year 2022 and $140,000 for fiscal year 2023.
Both UNC and the nation as a whole have worked to make mental health a priority. But to cultivate the best possible environment for student mental health, we need to do more to continue these efforts at the local level. This includes pushing straight purpose of receiving long-term mental health care services on campusmaintaining these increases in CAPS funding and spreading awareness of the mental health crisis hotline.
Current issues such as inflation, climate change, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and more permeate our daily lives. These high impact events inevitably create an atmosphere of widespread stress and anxiety and negatively impact the mental health of our community. The challenges we will face in the coming year may even exacerbate this.
These stressful events aren’t going away anytime soon, and neither are the mental health issues that come along with them. Community mental health resources are vital to well-being. 988 is a step in the right direction.
If you’re looking for immediate or long-term mental health care, see the list of local and national resources compiled by DTH editorial office.
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