The new mental health emergency number 988 is now active in Hawaii. Here’s what you should know

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Every small step makes a big difference when it comes to saving someone’s life — even a phone call.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been a key resource in the mental health community, and access has become easier with the launch of 988 on Saturday.

Hawaii has adopted the new three-digit code and is now active.

“The launch of 988 reflects a statewide commitment to prioritize mental health and increase access to resources,” said Marian Tsuji, the state’s assistant director of behavioral health.

“Access is easier [mental health] services,” said psychologist Darryl Salvador. “Think of it as the 911 for psychiatric and emotional behavioral problems or substance-related problems.”

According to proponents, there is hope that 988 will better serve those experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis.

What will happen to the original Suicide Crisis Lifeline?

The original number, 1-800-273-8255, will not go away and will remain available for callers in need.

The new three-digit code was introduced to make it easier for callers to access services.

So what can Hawaiians expect when they call 988?

Calling or texting 988 on a mobile device will direct those with an 808 area code to the Hawaii Department of Health’s CARES Crisis Relief.

But first, you’ll hear an automated message with additional options as your call is routed to your local Lifeline network crisis center.

After your call has been routed, you will be greeted by an onsite CARES crisis screener who will ask if you have an urgent crisis or need non-urgent assistance.

Based on the conversation, the crisis screener will help you figure out the next steps. If needed, they can arrange for a Crisis Mobile Outreach agent to provide personal support.

If the call center cannot answer, you will be directed to the national Lifeline call center.

People calling from out-of-state area codes will be connected to a crisis center in another state.

Who is Hawaii Cares?

The CARES (Hawaii Coordinated Access Resource Entry) program is a partnership between the state Department of Health and Human Services and community-based mental health and substance abuse service providers statewide.

Hawaii CARES is a free and confidential 24/7 mental health and substance use call center. They support adults and young people with mental or substance-related stress.

According to the Department of Health, Hawaii CARES received 101,151 calls last year.

Hawaii CARES is part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and is intended to be a connection resource for those unsure of what to do next.

Anyone can still reach Hawaii CARES by calling 808-832-3100 or 1-800-753-6879.

Why is the launch a big step in the mental health community, especially in Hawaii?

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the social, emotional and spiritual well-being of people worldwide. It is estimated that the prevalence of depression and anxiety has doubled during the pandemic.

According to the Department of Health’s Child and Mental Health Division, nearly 11,000 of Hawaii’s youth experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2020.

Additionally, Hawaii’s National Alliance on Mental Illness found last February that nearly 38% of adults in the state reported symptoms of anxiety or depression.

In the last year, the local organization also found that nearly 200 people have died by suicide and approximately 49,000 adults have had suicidal thoughts.

In an interview with psychologist Darryl Salvador, he said access to medical care in Hawaii is more difficult due to geographic isolation.

However, the launch of 988 is bridging the gap between access to services and mental health awareness, helping people, especially in rural areas, more quickly and efficiently.

If you call 911 now, you know they may dispatch police, fire, medical, which isn’t necessarily the best way to reach someone who is having a psychiatric crisis or a substance abuse crisis… It delays access to care. .. While [988] will be directly related to providing the person with the right resources.

Asking for help can be daunting, but it is an essential step in healing. Adults and adolescents in need of mental health services are encouraged to use 988.

“If you need help, why don’t you get the help you need? Why not access it?” said Salvador. “It’s a wonderful resource. Don’t be afraid to use it. When you need help, people want to help, they want to do their best to help. It’s okay to have some help.”

While launching it is a big step in the mental health community, advocates say there is still work to be done.

If you are in crisis or know someone who is in crisis, tell someone who can help you right away or call 988.

Click here to learn more about the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or to access the Lifeline Chat here.

Click for more information on Hawaii CARES here.

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