Ohio observes May as Mental Health Awareness Month


COLUMBUS — In recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) is encouraging increased public awareness and usage of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

“We want all Ohioans to know they are not alone; there is always hope, and help is just a phone call, text, or chat conversation away,” said OhioMHAS Director LeeAnne Cornyn. “Just like 911 is synonymous with help for a police, fire, or medical emergency, our goal is to promote 988 as the go-to resource for immediate support during an emotional crisis.”

Beginning in May, OhioMHAS is launching a public awareness campaign that includes radio, television, social media, and out-of-home messages in communities throughout Ohio, with a goal of making more people familiar with the potentially lifesaving resource.

Launched in July 2022, the easy-to-remember, three-digit number provides 24/7, free, and confidential support to anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance use crisis, or other severe emotional distress.

Ohio 988 is a direct connection to compassionate, accessible care and support for anyone experiencing mental health related distress, and functions as a front door to the community crisis system Ohio has been working hard to implement under Governor Mike DeWine’s leadership. Use of the service has increased as awareness has grown organically over time. In 2023, counselors at Ohio’s 19 call centers responded to nearly 163,000 contacts, which includes calls, texts, and chats.

Last fall, OhioMHAS led a messaging campaign that focused on increasing awareness through various social media platforms. While those efforts helped to boost awareness — Ohio’s call centers are currently averaging more than 13,400 contacts per month — state officials expect to see that number expand as awareness of 988 increases. According to a baseline survey, slightly more than one-third (36%) of Ohioans expressed familiarity with 988. While that number more than doubles the national rate of 17%, state officials hope this year’s campaign helps cement 988 as a valuable and trusted resource.

“No one plans a crisis in their life any more than planning a heart attack. The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness of the number to call when a crisis occurs,” stated Ohio’s 988 Administrator Doug Jackson. “988 is simple to remember and is a resource for Ohioans that not only helps people during tough times…it saves lives.”

Learn more about Ohio 988 and access a free, customizable toolkit at mha.ohio.gov/988.

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