How an Oklahoma 988 mental health line is dealing with an increase in calls

TULSA, Okla. — Since the launch of 988, the nation’s suicide and crisis lifeline, in July 2022, calls have poured into GRAND Mental Health.

“We’re currently serving about 13,000 individuals,” said Jeff Harlin, Chief Administrative Officer of GRAND Mental Health.

“Anytime we receive a 988 call, especially for adults, we do go out and provide a mobile crisis or mobile intervention where we go out and assess the person and determine if they need our services,” Harlin said.

If a person needs crisis intervention, GRAND Mental Health provides transportation to one of their crisis units in Vinita, Pryor or Stillwater.

“The response time is just as quick as we can get there,” Harlin said.

Harlin said that having depression is the same as having a medical issue.

“It’s no different than having diabetes or high blood pressure,” he added.

He said that more people have sought help for depression in January 2023.

According to data from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, since 988′s launch, 26% of calls dealt with self-harm. 17% of callers said they reached out because of depression. In the last 30 days, crisis call volume rose to 3,432, the highest number yet.

“There should be no shame in seeking out treatment for mental health issues,” Harlin said.

“If you’re asking someone about suicide, you want to ask directly, ‘Are you having thoughts about killing yourself or harming yourself?’” Harlin also said.

The most recent numbers from the CDC show that in 2020, Oklahoma’s death by suicide rate was sixth highest in the nation, a two spot increase from the 2019 rate.

“I think the most important part is just to reach out for help,” Harlin added.

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