Stressed-Out Vermonters to Get a New Hotline They Can Call for Help | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Stressed-Out Vermonters to Get a New Hotline They Can Call for Help


Published July 12, 2022 at 7:28 p.m.

Vermont officials are urging residents to take advantage of new mental health resources meant to ease the stresses of a global pandemic, domestic political turmoil, economic uncertainty and rising crime.

During his weekly press conference, Gov. Phil Scott said a new national crisis hotline — reachable by dialing 988 — will go live on Saturday, July 16, as part of the state’s effort to expand these resources.

“What I hope Vermonters take away from this discussion today is: It’s OK to not feel OK,” Scott said. “Because you’re not alone, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of in getting some help or just taking time to care for yourself."

Scott noted that stressors include “a historic reversal of women’s rights, a spike in crime across the country, skyrocketing prices at the pump, cost increases for just about everything and war in Ukraine.”

“I think we can all admit this is taking a toll, even on the strongest among us,” Scott said.

In 2021, there were 142 suicides in Vermont, the highest rate in state history and a 16 percent increase over 2020, according to preliminary data from the Vermont Department of Health.  

A suicide hotline that two years ago fielded 150 calls a month received more than 500 calls in January, said Alison Krompf, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Mental Health.

Beginning July 16, anyone can call the new National  Suicide Prevention and Crisis Lifeline. The confidential calls will be routed to centers in Vermont that are staffed by counselors who can help people with all kinds of mental health challenges — not just those feeling suicidal, Krompf said.

This includes people simply feeling distressed, overwhelmed or anxious who need someone to talk to, she said.

“In a post-pandemic world, after a time of prolonged isolation and uncertainty, not only has the need for mental health support increased, but that social and community fabric we lean on has likely frayed a bit for many,” Krompf said.

The pandemic interrupted people's ability to receive in-person counseling, and when that ability returned, in many cases people were in worse shape than they might have been, she said.

The state has been preparing for the new hotline for two years and thinks it has enough people ready to handle the calls. If not, overflow calls will be handed by staff in New Hampshire, Krompf said.

In addition to the new 988 number, officials also reminded people that they can call 211 anytime for information about a variety of social services, as well as access a confidential crisis text line by texting VT to 741741.

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