988 - Monday Musing, July 25, 2022
988. Being on vacation on The Cape for two weeks in the middle of summer, it might be easy to overlook national news. Not so when a topic near and dear to my heart surfaces. A new national mental health crisis response number was activated on July 16th – 988. It is reported that mental illness and the number of deaths by suicide is higher than ever before – and tragically, the statistics are rising. First responders through the long-established 911 system have done their best to respond to emergency situations, but it is clear that they lack the education and training specific to those in a mental health crisis. 988 marks a historic opportunity to ensure that the growing number of people in crisis are able to receive a more appropriate response, and an ability to access immediate mental health services.
My vocational work history prior to ministry included serving as a law enforcement officer and later as a psychiatric social worker. Former colleagues in police work lament how they feel ill-equipped to properly handle calls from those in mental health crisis. Although Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) has given many law enforcement officers skills that have helped many people in crisis, CIT is merely an introduction to mental illness and falls short of what those in mental health crisis need long term. COVID-19 has accentuated mental illness with 41% of adults reporting anxiety or depression disorders last ye