One of the lasting impacts of the last three years, whether politics or the pandemic, has been the crisis facing our mental health. Perhaps a bigger problem has been the access to mental health counseling, especially in Central Oregon’s rural areas.
Beginning Saturday, getting that mental health counseling will be exactly three times easier with the introduction of Oregon’s 988 crisis line. And it’s move that will be happening simultaneously at states across the country.
There may not be one among us who didn’t feel a new kind of stress as the pandemic descended on Central Oregon. That was compounded by a push to return to normal, communities more divided than ever and, of course, out-of-control inflation.
It is a perfect storm on the mental health of Oregonians everywhere.
Dwight Holton is the CEO of Lines for Life, the state’s partner that runs Oregon’s suicide and crisis lifeline.
“When we’re living in a world where we have a bunch of uncertainty going on whether it’s economic uncertainty, literally war in Europe, you know,” Holton said. “We’re worried about our healthcare, we’re worried about our jobs, all that stuff is legit. It’s OK to be stressed out about that stuff and we know that getting help for it can make it better.”
It might make it better, but the reality is the fastest way to get another qualified human being to talk to during a mental health crisis has been by calling a 10-digit number. And when your personal crisis hits, fumbling around to find that number again is wasting critical time.
That will not be an issue when the sun rises Saturday.
“We are really embracing as a nation, the reality that all of us struggle and it’s OK to ask for help,” said Holton.
Which is now just three digits away as Oregon’s new 988 goes live on Saturday.
“You know when someone is going through a behavior health crisis the last thing you can remember probably is a ten digit phone number,” said Oregon Health Authority 988 lead Rusha Grinstead.
And expectations are high. The Oregon Health Authority says 988 will double the number of people willing to seek mental health crisis counseling in just the first year.
Adam Goggins is the crisis supervisor for Deschutes County Behavior Health.
“It is supposed to increase accessibility to crisis services, mental health crisis, suicide crisis those kinds of things,” Goggins said.
To be clear, dialing 988 does not get you to a crisis dispatch center or forward you to local police.
“Starting from the call,” Grinstead added, “you are starting to receive mental health services because the individuals who answer 988 calls are trained crisis intervention councilors.”
In a world where uncertainty is also a reality for all of us, timing could be everything.
Calling 988 is available in English and Spanish. Texting is also available, but currently only in English.