The pandemic brought about many changes within our community, including openly discussing mental health.
As more and more people begin to prioritize mental health the available resources are improving.
The 988 mental health emergency hotline is launching nationwide on July 16th and will connect crisis centers across the country. The hotline is free and can provide referrals to people who are struggling and don't know where to turn.
Yessica Avancena says during the pandemic aspire counseling saw people of all ages start to struggle with depression and anxiety.
"I think that really highlighted the need for, you know, more services," said Yessica Avancena, Aspire Divisional CEO.
Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideations, experiencing a panic attack, extreme anxiety, or struggling with persistent depression can call this hotline as a first step in getting a referral to the best local services for them.
"Any time that somebody's having a high level of anxiety to the point of a panic attack -- that can be very, very frightening because it can very much feel like you're dying or feel like you are having a medical emergency," said Avancena.
Avancena added that if someone has already been told it is likely a panic attack they are experiencing, this is the perfect number to call for assistance in that situation.
"It was something that nobody wanted to talk about once upon a time, now everybody is ready to talk about it," said Michael Kaplan, Transitions-Mental Health Association Community Engagement Director.
Kaplan noted that he thinks the pandemic prompted the creation of the 988 hotline because it took a toll on everyone's mental health.
"People are seeking help and they need more resources," said Kaplan.
Those who are struggling with mental health or have questions about mental health resources can simply call 988 to be connected to an operator.
"I think it's so important to make access easy and that's what a 988 line is going to do," said Kaplan.
The Central Coast already has a mental health hotline community members can call if they are in need of help, Kaplan says the Central Coast hotline which is run by Transitions Mental Health, would like to eventually merge with the 988 hotline to ensure people are being connected to local resources.
"The 988 is going to be an easier way for people to dial similar to the 911 system," said Avancena.
Behavioral health specialists say this shorter, 3-digit number will be easier to call and remember than the 10-digit numbers the national suicide prevention hotline and central hotline have right now.
Central Coast hotline is a confidential mental health guidance, crisis, and suicide prevention telephone line available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for free. To reach the hotline call (800) 783-0607.