Nashville (WKRN) — Almost a month after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 11-digit-number became 988, mental health counselors say they are seeing a change in the reasons people are reaching out to them.
Changing the number hasn’t significantly increased the number of people using the service in Middle Tennessee, according to Becky Stoll, VP for Crisis and Disaster Management at mental health nonprofit Centerstone in Nashville.
However, she says it has changed some of the types of calls and texts they are getting.
“I think two and a half years in, we are starting to see what this global pandemic is going to leave in its wake,” Stoll said.
Centerstone is home to one of the 988 call centers that receive calls from people across Middle Tennessee and texts from people around the country who are in pain.
From her experience in the field and what she is hearing from her team, Stoll says she is getting the sense that we still haven’t seen the full impact of COVID-19 on mental health.
She said the center is receiving messages from kids worried about their family’s finances after going through back-to-school shopping, adults struggling in their relationships and people still mourning the loss of loved ones who have passed in the past two years.
While none of these issues are new to Stoll and her team, she sees them as a sign of what’s to come.
“I think we are seeing the storm brewing,” she said. “I think the curtain is beginning to be pulled back as to what this pandemic is doing to youth.”
Program manager and crisis consultant Kelly Bombardiere says in recent days she has had more people reaching out to the service to role-play tough conversations, learn about what mental health options are available to them, if they should try therapy or try to understand how current events will impact them.
“People asking how to have a conversation, how to describe the emotions they have been feeling in the past few years, we’ve been doing a lot more role-playing with people to make them feel more comfortable about big conversations,” she said.
Bombardiere also said a lot of people are texting or calling 988 just to feel heard.
“We have a lot of people who call in and just saying, ‘Hey do you have five [or] 10 minutes just so I can talk about how my day went? I just need some help letting it go and realizing tomorrow is a new day,'” she said.
But this isn’t a nuisance to her, it’s why she does what she does, and every time someone reaches out, she hopes they realize they have a smart, resourceful and empathetic friend right at their fingertips.
“More people are coming to realize that calling into a crisis line to talk about whatever your crisis is won’t result in you being locked or police presence or anything like that,” she added.