Maine awaits the launch of a new mental health hotline

“The bottom line is that crisis hotlines save lives.”
Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 7:31 PM EDT
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(WMTW) - A new mental health hotline is launching nationwide on Saturday, July 16, in an effort to expand access to mental health services.

“Now Mainers who are experiencing emotional distress, mental health crisis and suicidal ideation can simply dial 988 to be connected to a trained crisis clinician,” said Maine Department of Health and Human Services behavioral health director Sarah Squirrell.

Studies show that one in four Mainers struggle with mental health challenges. That statistic is from prior to the pandemic and the real number is likely much higher.

“Our mental health is just as important as our physical health,” said Hannah Longley, the director of community programs at the National Alliance on Mental Health Maine.

Maine already has a 1-800 mental health hotline but the new 988 hotline will expand access to services because it’s shorter and easy to remember.

“We already receive about 10,000 calls a month to our Maine crisis line and 83% of those calls are actually resolved on the phone,” Squirrell said.

The hotline will also provide an important alternative to calling 911, which requires more steps before dispatchers are able to connect callers with the proper resources.

“If I’m experiencing a medical emergency in my home I may call 911 and law enforcement may respond but they’ll respond and start medical services with the hope that a mental or medical provider will come in,” Longley said.

Law enforcement officers usually aren’t as equipped to respond to a mental health crisis as medical providers or social workers.

“It will mediate against any unnecessary utilization of law enforcement for someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis,” Squirrell said.

The new 988 hotline will allow callers to quickly access trained professionals who will talk them through their crisis and connect them with ongoing mental health resources.

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