By Ashley Snodgrass, Employee Benefits Analyst
As of July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is changing to be more easily accessible. Now help is only a three-digit number (988) away.
According to Alaska Department of Health Division of Behavioral Health, this change has been planned for many years. The goal is to make it easier to connect anyone in distress to “compassionate, accessible support,” including trained crisis counselors.
I’d like to highlight some statistics that support why this hotline is needed. These are taken directly from the State of Alaska’s FAQ about the new 988 hotline:
“Alaska and the nation are experiencing a mental health crisis. But the crisis is not irreversible.
- In Alaska in 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 10-19, and for youth ages 10-14. Suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death overall for all Alaska youth and young adults, ages 15-34.
- According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019, over 1 in 3 Alaska high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row; 25% seriously considered attempting suicide; and nearly 20% attempted suicide.
- When fully implemented, 988 will improve Alaska’s system of care that responds to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
- Those statistics are sobering, but there is good news:
- Suicide is most often preventable. For every person who dies by suicide annually, there are 316 people who seriously consider suicide but do not kill themselves.
- Over 90% of people who attempt suicide go on to live out their lives.”
An FAQ about the 988 Hotline has been made available on the State of Alaska’s webpage, accessible at https://health.alaska.gov/dbh/Pages/Prevention/988/default.aspx#faq
I’ve compiled some additional resources for mental health services in Alaska below:
- Alaska’s Careline: 1-877-266-4357 (HELP) or text “4help” at 839863
- 24/7 free and confidential crisis line
- UAA Psychological Services Center: 907-786-1795
- Telehealth counseling services available at reduced costs to all members of the community.
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255, or use Veterans Crisis Chat on the web
- The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that connects veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a trained responder. The service is available to all veterans, even if they are not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA healthcare.
- State of Alaska Behavioral Health Links & Resources
- Including links to Community Treatment and Recovery Providers with Websites:
In case of emergency, always call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for treatment.
This article is from RISQ Consulting’s Zywave client portal, a resource available to all RISQ Consulting clients. Please contact your Benefits Consultant or Account Executive for more information or for help setting up your own login.
According to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, an estimated 107,622 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021, a 15% increase from the previous year. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, was involved in the most deaths.
Opioids were again responsible for the vast majority (75%) of overdose deaths in the country. Deaths by overdose may involve multiple drugs; therefore, a single death might be included in more than one drug category. Here is the drug breakdown of overdose deaths in 2021:
- Fentanyl: 71,238
- Methamphetamine: 32,856
- Cocaine: 24,538
- Prescription pain medications: 13,503
Overdose deaths have been on the rise for years in the United States, but they surged during the pandemic, especially in its first year. For perspective, annual deaths were nearly 50% higher in 2021 than in 2019.
Throughout the pandemic, experts noticed an uptick in substance abuse amid widespread unemployment and more Americans reporting mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Even as the pandemic ends, it won’t be a quick switch back to normalcy since these conditions will need to be addressed and treated.
Treatment, or the lack thereof, is a crucial reason overdose numbers continue to rise. Drug abuse treatment was lacking even before the pandemic. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 20 million people age 12 and older reported having a substance abuse disorder in 2019—but only 10% were receiving care.
“You won’t see a reversal in the same way you saw the acceleration because these drug distribution networks and addiction become embedded in the community. And it’s not like they turn off overnight.”
-Katherine Keyes, associate professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Undoubtedly, the pandemic accelerated trends already heading in the wrong direction. Reversing this course will take concentrated efforts—and time.
May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. Mental health problems and substance use disorders sometimes co-occur. This month is a reminder to check in with yourself and others living with mental health conditions and facing substance abuse. If you have concerns, reach out to a doctor or use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline by calling 800-662-HELP (4357).