More people calling Hawaii’s mental health crisis line since launch of 988

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Since the nation’s new 988 mental health crisis line launched in mid-July, more people on the islands have been asking for help – and getting it.

The Hawaii Department of Health’s CARES crisis line has seen a 15% increase in calls.

Hawaii’s 31 counselors saw an average of 282 calls per day. Now they see 323.

Dennis Williams, development coordinator for Hawaii CARES, is one of the counselors on the other end of the line in Hawaii when people call the three-digit number.

“A lot of people out there are having a lot of stress, anxiety, isolation,” Williams said.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, simply dial 988 and you will quickly be connected to a counselor.

“We’re there to support the community when people just need to call and talk to someone, but we’ve always been the suicide crisis line and we’ve provided mental health services.”

Calls can be completely anonymous and anyone can call the line.

You don’t have to be in crisis, you may just need to talk to someone or want to get help from someone else.

It has only an average of 16 seconds of waiting time.

When someone calls the line, a trained counselor will ask you why you called and what they are experiencing.

They will do a risk assessment review and if the individual is happy with it, they can refer someone to crisis support management for help in person.

“The other component that was added with 988 is not only a call center, but also mobile crisis communication,” said Belinda Danielson, DOH Community Programs Supervisor for the Adult Mental Health Division.

Within the hour, someone can be there with the caller if needed.

Williams and his colleagues said that during the pandemic with many in isolation, Hawaii CARES served as their connection to the community.

“They’ve faced a lot of financial hardship,” said Sasha Farmer, CARES’ Hawaii coordinating team leader. “Many need to be connected to services. There is a lot of depression, a lot of increased suicidal ideation.

“These are some of the things we deal with. We provide therapeutic support and crisis intervention if they are a resident of Hawaii.

In the future, they hope to launch messaging and chat services in the near future.

But councilors are happy that 988 is reaching more people.

“The fact that our country has taken mental health, substance use, suicide prevention so seriously that they’ve elevated it to 911 is fantastic,” Danielson said.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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