Guest columnist Kyle Thompson is a policy assistant at the Center for Community Solutions.
As 2022 draws to a close, we find ourselves caught in the routine of annual shopping sprees and anticipated gatherings with loved ones.
On its surface, the holiday season presents itself as a time of cheer and celebration. However, some people experience strong dejection during this time of year.
As the days get darker and the nights get colder, people become isolated from the outside world and each other. In fact, 55 percent of Americans reported struggling with holiday loneliness earlier this year.
This holiday season is an opportunity for Ohioans to learn about services like the 988 Lifeline and engage in conversations with family and friends about mental health.
988 and beyond
988 is a shorter, three-digit Lifeline that provides a wide range of services tailored to mental health, substance use and suicidal crisis. The former suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255) will reroute calls to the 988 Lifeline.
988 also has culturally informed resources for marginalized groups, including LGBTQ individuals and neurodivergent , Black or indigenous populations. These resources are beneficial; however, the overall effectiveness of 988 is still limited due to its lack of funding.
Ohio is one of 27 states that lacks legislation to fund and implement 988. This is detrimental to many Ohioans who struggle with mental health and suicidal ideation.
Currently, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for Ohioans ages 10-34 — and this will continue unless decisionmakers work to increase 988′s funding and service capacity.
The 2023-2024 state budget should prioritize funding 988 to increase capacity for vulnerable populations. In the meantime, we should be discussing mental health with our family and friends.
How to talk about mental health
Talking about mental health is extremely effective in producing positive outcomes for individual wellbeing. Conversations around mental health are important, because they help to create affirming environments.
Effective practices include respecting the boundaries of the person holding conversation, allowing a person to have emotional space to process their feelings and creating a comfortable location for discussion.
In some cases, someone may not be fully talking about mental health at all, which is OK. The time to talk with loved ones should be up to your (or their) discretion.
How can 988 and mental health support become more effective?
In addition to funding 988, there should also be an effort to inform the public on Lifeline services for at-risk populations. Some advocates are also calling for a tax to support 988, which would increase funding and improve effectiveness.
Decisionmakers should be engaged with these conversations when creating legislation.
Having conversations about mental health with family and friends is also imperative. It is important to create support systems with one another during a time of year when many people lose track of what really matters: spreading love in our communities, catching up with loved ones and discussing mental health so we can blossom in our beauty when the spring comes.
National Helpline/Warmline Directory
988 Lifeline: Help Yourself
Free Resources During the Winter Holiday
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