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Mental Health Dept. encourages use of 988 hotline for crises

The Alabama Department of Mental Health is encouraging people experiencing suicidal crises during the holiday season to reach out for help.

“It can be hard for many during this time,” the department said in a recent statement. “The holidays may be stressful and overwhelming, but there are resources available found online and by dialing 988, which is available 24/7, with a trained crisis counselor on the other end of the line.”

In 2021, 827 Alabamians died by suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number has been trending upward in recent years.  About 15% of those were children or adolescents, according to ADMH.

And last year, nationwide, 49,449 people died by suicide, the highest number ever recorded.

“We must continue to connect, communicate, and work together to decrease suicide and increase mental health wellness for ourselves and our loved ones,” ADPH said. “Reaching out, talking to peers, family, or a mental health professional can help ease some depression, stress and anxiety that come with the holiday season, or any day of the year.”

Earlier this year, the department launched a “No Shame” campaign, an effort to reduce the stigma around suicide and mental illness.

People in crisis can call or text 988, a national, 24/7 hotline for mental health emergencies, and be connected with local resources and care.

Funding for the expansion of emergency mental health care will likely be a topic in the upcoming legislative session. Calling it a tax increase, lawmakers this year rejected a bill that would have added a monthly $.98 per-line fee to cell phones and landlines to better fund local 988 services and crisis care.  

The Association of County Commissions of Alabama recently said access to local mental health care and a reliable funding source for 988 is one of its legislative priorities for the 2024 session.

For more information about crisis care in Alabama, click here. For mental health providers in your area, click here.

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