Alabama health care leaders see uptick in mental health concerns this time of year

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIATT) – Alabama mental health leaders see a spike in admissions around the holidays each year and say this year is no exception.

Due to the stress of the holidays and seasonal depression due to the shorter days, the Alabama Department of Mental Health says the state has seen an increase in calls to its new 988 suicide hotline.

“We’ve seen a significant increase over the last month and we expect to see that over the next few months as well,” said department commissioner Kimberly Boswell.

Boswell says that number is the gateway to the system of care the state offers — including four crisis centers and other community resources.

But it’s not just calls to 988. WellStone, a mental health care system in North Alabama, has seen an increase especially in crisis care.

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“Yesterday we made seven receptions in the crisis center. That is abnormal for us. We are definitely seeing an uptick. A lot of depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, those things,” CEO Jeremy Blair said.

Blair says they usually see two to three admissions a day, but that increases in the winter.

He encourages anyone seeking help to start by calling 988 and then look into services in their area.

“It’s an easy number to remember.” Whenever you start feeling anxious or having those depressive thoughts. There are trained doctors across the state and across the nation ready to answer those calls to help you get through those things,” Blair said.

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If you want to help a loved one, JBS Mental Health Clinical Director Malissa Galliher says you need to recognize certain signs, such as isolation, changes in routine or communication patterns.

“If you have someone you’re checking up on and they’re not responding according to their normal pattern, maybe they usually text you very often and long paragraphs, and now you’re getting one-word responses, then dig a little deeper and find out what’s going on with that individual,” Gallicher said. .

When it comes to what you can do to help someone who is struggling, all three say the biggest thing is to simply reach out.

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“Isolation is really the worst thing we can do for our mental health and a lot of times during the holidays if people are feeling really sad, one of the things they’ll tend to do is isolate themselves and not pick up the phone and they call people. Boswell said. “So one of the really helpful things you can do is pick up your phone, touch and connect with loved ones.”

988 is a toll-free, 24/7 confidential service of the Department of Health and Human Services. You can also send a message to that helpline number.


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