Mental health hotline calls are up in Kentucky

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 18:15:51-05

VERSAILLES, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Versailles community is having a discussion today with organizations and international experts about mental health and coping with the difficulties of suicide. Advocates have said the stigma around having these conversations is going away.

Three organizations are meeting with the Versailles community to talk about coping with suicide and prevention. These organizations are Brothers Run, UK's Suicide Prevention and Exposure Lab, and Eastern Kentucky University.

University of Kentucky professor and director of the Suicide Prevention and Exposure Lab, Dr. Julie Cerel, says, "I think it's really important for communities to recognize that we all have losses to suicide and that it's something that we can talk about and figure out how to get the best resources possible."

She explains that research shows that 50% of people know someone who has died by suicide and a third have been impacted by the loss.

New Vista in Lexington says their 988 call center calls have gone up. Since its launch late last summer, in Kentucky, the suicide and crisis lifeline saw a 29% increase in calls in July. New Vista’s regional director of emergency response and client engagement, Darcy Miller, says that the increase shows the new number’s necessity.

She says, "I think mental health is just as important as physical health and it affects who we are, it affects our lives, it affects our loved ones and our jobs — and I believe this hotline can save lives."

These professionals say it's important for people to know that they are not alone.

"That just helps people live a better life and in some cases, saves their lives. You know, the motto is 'having someone to talk to, someone to respond, and somewhere to go.' So, this is the first stop in having someone to talk to," says Miller.

New Vista has mobile crisis teams that serve the 17-county region, EKU's Psychology Clinic offers suicide-focused treatment, and UK is starting new training to help families. Today's speakers hope people know it’s okay to talk.

Dr. Cerel says, "Talking about suicides doesn't lead people to become suicidal. In fact, it's often not talking about it and feeling emotions like guilt or avoiding even talking about it that's harder for people in the long run."

The organizers of tonight's event in Versailles say they hope to have more discussions like this one around the state.