When should you call 988? Oklahoma’s Mental Health Lifeline can be used before a crisis

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, addictive tendencies, stress and other mental health issues, you can call or text 988, Oklahoma’s Mental Health Hotline, or call 911.

The 988 Mental Health Lifeline is a quick way to respond to a crisis, but the services can also be helpful in preventing it.

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services reports that 90% of people get what they need with just one phone call.

Because every crisis is defined by the person experiencing it, says Agata Karch, vice president for clinical operations and crisis services at OKC-based clinic NorthCare, professionals tailor their response to each person.

“Sometimes it’s a family struggling with their child and needs us to help with de-escalation, and sometimes it’s an individual struggling with finding resources,” Karch said.

What happens when you call 988?

When someone calls or texts 988, he or she will be connected to a mental health professional, who will discuss the situation and connect the caller to other resources if necessary. The phone call can lead to an appointment with a therapist or psychologist.

If personal assistance is needed, a mobile crisis team can be dispatched to the caller’s location.

More: How 988 saved an Oklahoman’s life and inspired her to advocate for accessible mental health care

NorthCare, a certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic in Oklahoma City, operates a mobile crisis and outreach team called Champions. The team operates 24/7 and is one of several groups on call if someone calls 988. They provide support to individuals with serious mental illness, children and young people with serious emotional disorders and people with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders.

The crisis team responds with the goals of de-escalating the crisis, preventing a higher level of care and connecting with outpatient resources to prevent future crises, Karch said.

Karch said the team helps people struggling with suicidal thoughts, who may need assessment for a higher level of care or who simply need emotional support or a referral to community resources. The team can transport the person if necessary.

Mobile crisis teams can also be called in by the police.

More: Should you call 988 or 911 for mental health help? Here’s what you need to know

NorthCare’s Champions team responds to approximately 150 crisis interventions per month. In its first year, the 988 hotline in Oklahoma received more than 40,000 calls.

It is not unusual for the team to respond to relatively low-level calls where clients are not in danger to themselves or others.

“We really want people to know that we are just a phone call away and we really want to package services around an individual or family to help their unique situation and keep it from getting worse,” Karch said. “Sometimes it’s a family struggling with their child and they need us to help with de-escalation. Or it could be someone going through a situational crisis and just needs someone to talk to.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: When should you call 988? The mental health line can help before the crisis

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