TYLER, Texas — A study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows suicide prevention calls have increased by 45% since the launch of 988. The state of Texas is also seeing that increase in certain parts of the state.
In Travis County, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Texas, Greg Hansch said calls have increased by 83%
It's an increase Hansch said was higher than anticipated before the launch of 988, the three-digit suicide prevention hotline.
“It was predicted that there would be a substantial increase in the number of calls coming into the lifeline,” Hansch said. “Our estimates were a two to three-fold increase in the number of calls and sure enough, the recent data shows a near doubling in the number of calls.”
Hansch said with the influx of calls coming in has translated to longer wait times with limited staff.
“There are wait times of around 45 seconds and a lot of cases, which could be better, we would like to see that wait time for calls reduced,” Hansch added. “What that looks like is hiring more staff. It's giving the staff the ability to take care of their own needs. So that they're not overly overwhelmed.”
Sandra Brazil-Hamilton, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Tyler, said the high call volume has also led more people to seek mental health services.
“We stay very busy and it's because that 988 number has brought some awareness,” Brazil-Hamilton said. “So people are reaching out to NAMI of Tyler, to ask where to find services for mental health substance use, and not just sit out there and languish or end up in suicide.”
With demand expected to increase, Hansch said it’s up to state lawmakers to invest more in mental health services to meet demand.
“What happens in the next legislative session in 2023 is critically important,” Hansch said. “There needs to be a lot of attention and focus from state lawmakers on this issue because there aren't enough mental health crisis services in our state.”