Editorial Roundup: New suicide prevention efforts are a step forward

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2022

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A new nationwide suicide prevention and mental health counseling help line is a welcome development given the rise in mental health cases and prevalence of suicide.

The new three digit phone number — 988 — is easier to remember than the previous 800 number, and it comes with the hope that more people will get help via dialing or texting the number.

The goal will be to connect Minnesota callers to call centers in Minnesota so they can be directed to resources that are specific to Minnesota.

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Blue Earth, Nicollet and Brown counties are included in the region with a call center in Carver County, just north of the Mankato region. The new number is expected to generate 25% more calls due to its ease of remembering.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that people experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression went from about 10% in normal times to 40% during the pandemic.

The challenge will be to ensure there are enough counselors to answer the volume of calls. Minnesota currently has a 76% answer rate for local calls being answered by Minnesota counselors. The federal goal for states is 90%.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Legislature did not pass additional funding for mental health services that would have allowed for added staff at the call centers. Mental health advocates said they will push for additional funding next year.

The lack of funding is another casualty of the breakdown of a budget deal that had been agreed to by Senate Republicans, Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz. Both sides blame the other for the breakdown, but whoever is at fault, Minnesotans needing mental health suffer.

The new call number is a simple way to get people the mental health help they need. It’s a good start, but the Legislature should boost funding next year.

—Mankato Free Press, July 18

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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