Find Your Local NAMI
Call the NAMI Helpline at
Or text "HelpLine" to 62640
Resource-strapped call centers anticipate a burst of demand in July when the new 988 national suicide prevention hotline number goes live. But a lack of funds to help meet that demand is delaying efforts to publicize the service. The federal government must invest in public awareness, but the priority is to ensure that when people in need call there are the resources available to help, NAMI chief advocacy officer Hannah Wesolowski said. A nationwide public awareness campaign likely won’t take place until late 2022 or early 2023, Wesolowski said.
Hundreds of thousands of kids have lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19 and need support services, mental health experts say, with communities of color particularly devastated. Psychologists say this loss has caused an uptick in anxiety, depression, trauma- and stress-related disorders in some children. "As we move forward through this pandemic, I don't want people to feel as though, if the pandemic is getting better, then the youth mental health issue will go away," said Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director of NAMI. "The reality is that's not the case, because this crisis preexisted COVID. And it's even more dire in these rural areas because there is hardly any mental health support in place."
In an opinion piece, NAMI CEO Daniel Gillison wrote: The pandemic has hit people hard — especially their mental health. As the CEO of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, I know that we have to act urgently to avoid traumatic outcomes. Our failure to treat mental health crises leads to people cycling in and out of jails and emergency rooms, homelessness — or worse. The launch in July of 988, a new crisis hotline number, gives us a chance to put services into place that can help, but we have to act now. The NAMI HelpLine has experienced a 185% increase in calls related to suicide and a 251% increase in calls related to mental health crises compared with pre-pandemic times. After 20 months of COVID-19, there's never been a more critical time to invest in a new crisis response system.
By July 16, 2022, there will be a nationwide hotline to help with mental health crises and suicide prevention. “Once fully implemented, 988 will save lives and is a critical component to ensuring people in crisis are diverted from involvement in the criminal justice system and connected to appropriate services and supports,” said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison, Jr.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports one in six U.S. youth, ages 6-17, experience a mental health disorder every year. NAMI claims half of those conditions start by age 14 with behavior problems, anxiety, and depression among the issues most commonly diagnosed. NAMI added only around half of students with mental health conditions actually received treatment in the past year. “Go to the pediatrician as the first place to start in order to get [kids] that mental health care that they need,” said Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director for NAMI, who urged parents to watch for signs that their child is irritable or withdrawn. “Talk to your child about what’s going on, instead of just assuming that it’s normal teenage behavior or normal young people behavior,” she said. Crawford emphasized school districts are key in providing early identification and prevention as the pandemic presents new challenges for children who may feel isolated or anxious.
In a crisis? Call or text 988.