Talking about 988 and mental health during the holidays: Kyle Thompson (Opinion)

Talking about 988 and mental health during the holidays: Kyle Thompson (Opinion)

Guest columnist Kyle Thompson is a political assistant at the Center for Community Solutions.

As 2022 draws to a close, we find ourselves caught up in the routine of annual shopping sprees and anticipated gatherings with our loved ones.

On its surface, the holiday season presents itself as a time of joy and celebration. However, some people experience strong discouragement at this time of year.

As the days darken and the nights grow colder, people isolate themselves from the outside world and from each other. In fact, 55% of Americans said they struggled with holiday loneliness earlier this year.

This holiday season is a time for Ohioans to learn about services like 988 Lifeline and start conversations with family and friends about mental health.

988 and beyond

988 is a three-digit shorter lifeline that offers a wide range of services tailored to mental health, addictions and suicidal crises. The old Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) will redirect calls to the 988 Lifeline.

988 also offers culturally-informed resources for marginalized groups, including LGBTQ people and neurodivergent, Black, or Indigenous populations. These resources are beneficial; however, 988’s overall effectiveness is still limited due to its lack of funding.

Ohio is one of 27 states that lacks legislation to fund and implement 988. This hurts many Ohioans who struggle with mental health and suicidal ideation.

Currently, suicide is the third leading cause of death among Ohioans between the ages of 10 and 34 — and that will continue unless policymakers work to increase funding and service capacity for 988.

The 2023-2024 state budget should prioritize 988 funding to increase the capacity of vulnerable populations. In the meantime, we should discuss 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 well-being. Conversations about mental health are important because they help create affirming environments.

Effective practices include respecting the boundaries of the person holding the conversation, allowing a person to have emotional space to process their feelings, and creating a comfortable place for the discussion.

In some cases, someone may not speak fully about mental health at all, which is normal. The time to talk with your loved ones should be at 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 educate the public about Lifeline services for at-risk populations. Some proponents are also calling for a tax to support 988, which would increase funding and improve efficiency.

Policy makers should be part of these conversations when creating legislation.

It is also imperative to have conversations about mental health with family and friends. Building support systems with each other is important at a time of year when many people lose sight of what really matters: spreading love in our communities, catching up with loved ones, and discussing health. mental so that we can blossom into our beauty when spring comes.


National Helpline Directory/Warmline

988 Lifeline: Help Yourself

Free resources during the winter holidays

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