The rollout of 988 has been something I’ve been excited about. An easy-to-remember number for anyone in a mental health crisis should help greatly. However, that success depends on the quality of the folks answering the phones and helping to deal with those stressful situations, so this news is not good.
“The people setting up 988 agree the counselors answering these calls, chats and texts will be critical to the new line achieving its goals. But with just six weeks before it goes live, hundreds of positions remain unfilled—putting those looking to the line for help at risk. It also makes it more likely that those who have been hired will end up overworked.”
Like everywhere else, it’s challenging to find good help these days. Being an operator for 988, or 911, also discussed at length at the link below, is a difficult, stressful job. I can certainly understand why many people would not sign up for it. Many of us probably shouldn’t sign up for it because of the inherent risks to our mental health. On the other hand, if there’s no one there to answer the call during a mental health emergency, this will fail many people who need help.
Creating a new number was the easy part. Similar to raising awareness because it’s necessary, it’s essential, but if there is no one there to provide the help we encourage people to reach out for, it’s not nearly enough. Here’s hoping these state and local organizations can find and train people to provide the necessary help during these calls. That’s only a start, of course. We still have so much work to do to make that help accessible to everyone who needs it.
In some ways, this struggle to staff the hotline is a microcosm of the entire mental health field right now. We need a lot of resources that just aren’t there right now. Can we figure out a way to get change that?