988 lifeline starts #BeThe1To to combat mental health stigma

Local4 News at 6
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 8:52 PM CDT
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - This year, to promote suicide awareness, the 988 lifeline has started #BeThe1To.

#BeThe1To is categorized into five parts: ask, be there, keep them safe, help them stay connected and follow up. These are measures everyday people can take to help a friend or loved one get through a difficult time in their life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nationally suicide deaths are at 14.1 per 100,000. In the state of Nebraska, it’s slightly higher at 15. Farmers also have a high suicide rate at 36 per 100,000.

Psychiatrist, Dr. Zachary Keller said a big portion of mental health still centers around stigma. Some people are still reluctant to take a leap of faith and seek mental health service.

“I think that that’s the hardest part of the job; is getting people over that hurdle of the fact that this normal,” said Dr. Zachary Keller, Psychiatrist at CHI Health Richard Young Outpatient Clinic. “So I think the hardest thing is with other illnesses, whatever it may be it’s fairly normalized right?”

Keller said sometimes employers and people around an individual won’t approve someone going to the hospital for mental health reasons. Adding, a lot of what he does is dispel stigma. He said no matter which portion of practice it is, breaking stigma is a part of it, and some of it’s due to a patients research.

He said breaking mental health stigma goes back several generations because some were taught they shouldn’t seek help; just use the ‘pull-up your bootstraps mentality.’ Keller also said the stigma is slowly dying and that’s a direct correlation of the age demographic.

“I think that’s the biggest thing you see between age groups is people that are our parents age or older they didn’t really, they had those services but man they were so, I guess specialized or few and far between that nobody really utilized it, and now in days we utilize them all the time,” said Keller.

Keller said a lot of high school allow students to text a therapist when they’re having problems. He said social media and 988 also plays a role in accessing mental health. It has been a year since the 988 lifeline has been in place, and now people can call and get the help they need without having to wait for a mental health specialist.

“That’s kind of how they get onto the mental health radar sorta speak,” said Keller. “You know they don’t really know or maybe they’ve talked to their counsel, maybe their parents have said ‘Sure we’ll get you a therapist,’ but they’re busy or they don’t, it’s not important to them. So a lot of youth have utilized this service more than adults have.”

Keller said several individuals have made their way to CHI Health Richard Young Outpatient Clinic after utilizing 988 services.