MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Mental health care leaders in Alabama see an uptick in admissions around the holidays every year and say this year is no exception.
With stress of the holidays and seasonal depression due to shorter days, the Alabama Department of Mental Health says the state has seen an increase in calls to the new 988 suicide hotline.
“We’ve seen a significant increase just over the last month and we anticipate seeing that through the next few months as well,” Department Commissioner Kimberly Boswell said.
Boswell says that number is the entryway to a system of care the state offers — including four crisis centers and other community resources.
But it’s not just calls to 988. WellStone, a mental health care system in North Alabama, has seen an uptick particularly in crisis care.
“Yesterday we did seven admissions into the crisis center. That’s abnormal for us. We’re definitely seeing an uptick. A lot of depression, suicidal ideations, anxiety, those things,” CEO Jeremy Blair said.
Blair says they typically see two to three admissions daily, but that spikes in the winter.
He encourages anyone seeking help to start by calling 988 ,then looking into services in their area.
“That is an easy to remember number. Anytime you’re beginning to feel anxious or have those depressed thoughts. There are trained clinicians across the state and across the nation ready to answer those calls to help you work through those things,” Blair said.
If you’re looking to help a loved one, Clinical Director at JBS Mental Health Authority Malissa Galliher says to recognize certain signs, like isolation, changes in routine or communication patterns.
“If you have someone who you’re checking on and they’re not responding in their normal pattern, maybe they typically text with you very frequently and long paragraphs and now you’re getting one-word responses, then dig a little deeper and find out what’s going on with that individual,” Galliher said.
When it comes to what you can do to help someone struggling, all three say the biggest thing is simply reaching out.
“Isolation is really the worst thing we can do for our mental health and a lot of times during the holidays if people are feeling really sad, one of the things they’ll tend to do is isolate and not pick up the phone and call people,” Boswell said. “So one of the really helpful things you can do is pick up the phone, reach out and connect with loved ones.”
988 is a free, 24/7 confidential service of the Department of Health and Human Services. You can also text that number for assistance.