Need for more culturally specific mental health resources as anniversary of 988 Lifeline approaches

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — It’s been one year since Wisconsin implemented 988 as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline along with the rest of the U.S.

In the last year of calls, texts, and online chats, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) says lives have been saved. The first anniversary of 988 falls during Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Friday, Wellpoint Care Network hosted its second Black Mental Health Professionals Panel.

Alex Williams is the director of community engagement at Wellpoint Care Network. “There’s so many subtopics and intersections that we can explore within the realm of mental health, and specifically Black mental health,” said Williams.

Nationwide, there’s a shortage of Black mental health professionals despite federal health data showing that people of color are impacted by mental health issues disproportionally.

“It’s important for Black mental health professionals to get into the field and be more involved in community support,” said Mary Brown, Wellpoint school-based therapist. Data also shows that Black people are less likely to seek help.

“How do we help pick them up out of those moments? So, I think that 988 number is going to save lives, but we also need culturally specific resources for people who need that help, and we have to continue to grow those resources,” said Williams.

Caroline Crehan Neumann is a crisis services coordinator at DHS. “We are in the process of applying for another federal grant, and in the budget we have outlined, we have money set aside for marketing specifically to reach underrepresented populations,” she told CBS 58.

Officials with Wisconsin’s 988 Lifeline and DHS say efforts are being made to reach more people of color and other underserved populations. “We’re also working on the lifeline side internally to build that cultural competence, so we continue to offer trainings to our staff that are specialized for those specialized populations,” said Shelly Missall.

Federal officials say since 988 became the official suicide and crisis number, calls increased by about two million. Services continue to be expanded, and this week, a Spanish text chat service was added. “We know we need to work extra hard to reach the people that we want to reach,” Crehan Neumann said.

Click here for a list of mental health services in Milwaukee.

WATCH the full story from CBS 58 HERE.