As a new suicide hotline launches, mental health advocates hope

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Americans can now call 988 if they have suicidal or mental health crisis.

The new hotline, launched last Saturday, is part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network and anyone can call, text or chat on this number.

In Missouri, helpline calls increased 86% from 2016 to 2020 at six state centers. Other help centers across the country are also receiving more calls.

988: THE SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE IS ACCEPTING CALLS TO THIS NEW NUMBER

Some people who have lost loved ones to suicide say they wonder if things would have been different if this new 988 hotline had existed before.

Sixteen-year-old Annika Stenglein planned to travel to California for modeling and acting jobs in 2016.

“She has always been an energetic child. She loved to play three sports, played three instruments, ”said the young woman’s father, Ray Stenglein.

Ray Stenglein lost his 16 year old daughter Annika to suicide. "She has always been a cheerful child," he said.

Ray Stenglein lost his 16 year old daughter Annika to suicide. “She was always an energetic child,” he said.
(Ray Stenglein)

But Ray Stenglein said Annika’s depression took over just a month before her planned trip.

“It was a complete shock that day. I actually found her at 2:30 in the morning, which was the worst event of my life,” he told Fox News.

For the past five and a half years, Stenglein, along with his mentor Chris Shaw, has spent the last five and a half years promoting suicide in Minnesota.

Ray Stenglein (far left) and Chris Shaw (center) during an event where they advocated for better mental health.  Shaw committed suicide a few weeks ago.

Ray Stenglein (far left) and Chris Shaw (center) during an event where they advocated for better mental health. Shaw committed suicide a few weeks ago.
(Ray Stenglein)

“Three weeks ago he lost his battle with mental illness. I feel like a failure because he didn’t contact me,” Stenglein said.

Shanna Mulvihill, chief executive of Mental Health Minnesota, said people are struggling.

“We’re doing online mental health surveys and we’re seeing a surge in numbers during the pandemic,” Mulvihill said.

“In 2019, we had about 6,400 views. Last year we had over 31,000. And these numbers continue to be stable.”

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Mental health experts are seeing the same thing in other areas.

“[In] In most states and across the country, we’ve seen it rise somewhere between 300% and 500% over the past two years,” Mulvihill said.

Over 3.3 million people contacted the suicide hotline in 2020. A year later, that number had risen to 3.6 million Americans.

People can now call 988 when they have a mental health crisis.

"I think every time you make it easier to access services, that's a huge win for mental health." said Mulvihill of Mental Health Minnesota.

“I think every time you make it easier to access services, that’s a huge win for mental health,” said Mulvihill of Mental Health Minnesota.
(iStock)

“It will be as easy as 911 – people will know this number,” Stenglein said.

“I think every time you make it easier to access services, that’s a huge mental health win,” Mulvihill said.

According to the CDC, more than 90% of people who attempt suicide and survive do not kill themselves later.

“You may need 10 to 15 therapists until you find someone who will contact you, but look for them,” said Stenglein.

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“Never stop – and family and loved ones never let them stop. Your brain is the same as your heart and your lungs. It’s an organ, and sometimes you need medicine to keep it going,” he added.

The 988 call system has been operating in the same way as the National Suicide Hotline for many years.

It will just make it easier for people to remember the number.

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Mental health organizations such as Mental Health Minnesota say they have not received additional staffing funding to cover increased call demands when 988 goes live.