GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Students and mental health advocates have called for additional funding to be dedicated to the 988 mental health helpline. They went before the Greenville County Legislative Delegation Monday night.
“The suicide hotline can barely stay afloat due to lack of funding,” said Kelyn Bayne, co-chair of Minds Matter at Mauldin High School.
“Imagine your son, daughter or grandchild dialing 988 when needed, and they are greeted by silence on the other side of the phone. No one is there to answer, or they have to wait for several hours , all because the hotline doesn’t have enough money to hire more workers or win more volunteers,” Bayne said in his address to delegates.
This is a real concern for some students in Greenville County.
“I would say this is definitely an issue that cannot be ignored,” said Natalie Flinch, co-chair of Minds Matter at Mauldin High School. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you have someone it affects, it’s more like a parent or a grandchild or something like that. Mental health affects everyone,”
“Mental health in schools is so important and needs to be addressed,” Flinch said. “So that’s why we feel so passionate about it, and that’s what we want to try and get the word out.”
“Why is 988 on my school ID if it doesn’t have enough funds to work properly,” Bayne said.
District officials also recognized the need.
“The school idea badges from what we hear, students are using them. They call the crisis center, but part of the problem is that the crisis center only has enough funds for about three staff at a time, and the calls are so big that it takes about 25,” said Dr. Ellen Hampshire, Coordinator, Tiered Support Systems at Greenville County Schools.
“What happens is if someone can’t pick up the phone, they go to another office. Then he gets further and further away from Greenville. So somewhere else in the state, where they might not know our resources, or the student has to wait until they hook them up with someone,” Hampshire said.
“You can imagine that if you’re in a crisis and you have to wait for someone to help you, and you’re still really a kid and you have a problem, it can be quite frustrating and some students hang up,” a- she declared. said.
That’s why students at several schools and advocates are asking lawmakers for funding to get more people to answer the call at the Greenville Call Center.
“Nationwide Lifeline reports that phone calls are up about 45% and chats and texts are increasing exponentially,” said Jennifer Piver, executive director, Mental Health America of Greenville County/988 Call Center.
“We have had great partners through the Department of Mental Health [and] The Ministry of Education helps us through grants, but we don’t have sustainable funding at the moment,” Piver said. “So that’s what we’re looking for is funds to help us recruit staff, so that we answer all calls in the state.”
“Columbia’s DMH told us they had adequate funding and that’s not true,” said Nacole Hause of the Regional Education Center Advisory Board. “So we’re actually asking if we could realign their government agency, just to something we can manage, to make sure student safety is taken care of.”
Hause was appointed by the Greenville County Legislative Delegation to look after mental health in the area.
Students are also asking for more money to help with social and emotional learning.
“Our goal is to really raise awareness about mental health and bring it back to the school board, so they don’t forget that mental health is a very important topic that needs to be destigmatized,” Bayne said. “We also hope to advocate for increased funding for social and emotional learning, 988 and club organizations around mental health.”
Bayne said she personally knows people with mental illness.
“I remember, I think my eighth year, one of my cousins started cutting and hurting herself,” Bayne said. “Then I got to high school, and there was a student who committed suicide my freshman year.”
All parties believe that this problem must be resolved quickly by all, especially those in power.
“Lives are precious and we don’t need to lose another soul to suicide,” Bayne said. “I’m for Greenville and funding for 988 and SEL would mean you’re for Greenville too.”
During the meeting, one delegate said, “mental health is important to me,” he said. “From what I understand, I have seen studies [on] the crisis that our students are facing in Greenville County compared to previous years, to the numbers we are seeing now.
“I ask members here to be careful, it looks like our students are suffering,” the delegate told other members.
After the students spoke to the Greenville County Legislative Delegation, the president said they wanted to keep in touch with the group of students and advocates.
The chair also told the group to let delegates know how they can help.
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