Editorial: New mental health helpline paves way for more accessible care

Content Disclaimer: This article contains mentions of suicide.




Since the start of the pandemic, local, national and global crises have contributed to a steady increase in mental health issues in communities. Increased funding and more accessible mental health resources provide solutions and connect sufferers to quality care.

This academic year, UNC has an opportunity to take advantage of advances in mental health care and enhance the University’s existing support systems for students, faculty, and community members.

A new suicide and crisis lifeline is currently available for community use, according to UNC’s Counseling and Psychology Services website. The number – 988 – has only three digits, making it much easier to remember compared to its 10-digit predecessor: 800-273-8255.

Instead of the police, dialing 988 will connect the caller to a nationwide network of local crisis centres. The number’s goal is to reduce 911 calls for mental health crises, hoping to reduce law enforcement response during mental health emergencies, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. A lack of police training for mental health emergencies has resulted in the imprisonment of two million people with mental health issues in the past year. Additionally, SAMSHA reported that almost a quarter of fatal police shootings over the past year involved people with mental illnesses.

People of color are disproportionately affected by police brutality. For example, black men are twice as likely to be killed by police as their white counterparts, according to the Washington Post. Therefore, they are even more likely to be killed in violence resulting from mental health emergencies.

In addition to the new hotline number, federal financial support for mental health has increased. Instead of the $24 million previously allocated, the Biden administration has invested $432 million in mental health services to support advance calls to 988. This money will support local and emergency call centers as well as a subnet for Spanish speakers who use the hotline.

Funding for mental health resources has also been a topic of conversation in the UNC community.

UNC has historically struggled to meet the demand for quality on-campus mental health resources. Over the past few semesters, waiting lists for brief individual therapy sessions, insufficient funding, and a lack of options for long-term mental health care have been recurring issues associated with the University’s CAPS program. .

Last spring, students raised concerns about UNC’s mental health resources, and a petition swept through the community calling for increased CAPS funding. In response, it was confirmed that CAPS would receive $81,667 in additional funding for fiscal year 2022 and $140,000 for fiscal year 2023.

UNC and the nation as a whole have worked to make mental health a priority. But to cultivate the best possible environment for student mental health, we need to do more to continue these efforts locally. This includes pursuing the goal of receiving long-term mental health care services on campus, maintaining these CAPS funding increases, and raising awareness of the Mental Health Crisis Helpline.

Current issues such as inflation, climate change, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian-Ukrainian war and many more permeate our daily lives. These high-impact events inevitably create an atmosphere of widespread stress and anxiety and negatively impact the mental health of our community. The challenges we will face in the coming year may even exasperate this.

These stressful events won’t go away anytime soon, nor will the mental health issues that come with them. Community mental health resources are essential to well-being. 988 is a step in the right direction.

If you are looking for immediate or long-term mental health care, check out the list of local and national resources compiled by the DTH Editorial Board.



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