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

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Launch
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Launch(HNN)
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 12:46 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 1, 2022 at 2:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Since the nation’s new 988 mental health crisis line launched in mid-July, more people in the islands have been seeking help ― and getting it.

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

The 31 Hawaii counselors used to see an average of 282 calls a day. Now they see 323.

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

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

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, just dial 988 and you’ll quickly be connected to a counselor.

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

Calls can be completely anonymous and anyone can give the line a ring.

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

There is only an average of a 16-second wait time.

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

They will do a risk assessment screening, and if the individual is comfortable with it, they may send someone in crisis support management for in-person help.

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

Within the hour, someone could 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 been dealing with a lot of financial hardships,” said Sasha Farmer, the Hawaii CARES coordinator team lead. “Many need to be linked with services. There’s a lot of depression, a lot of heightened suicidal ideations.

“These are some of the things that we do address. We provide therapeutic support, and crisis intervention if they are a resident of Hawaii.”

In the future, they hope to roll out texting and chat services in the near future.

But counselors are happy 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 a level of 911, is fantastic,” said Danielson.

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