Let's Remove Structural Stigma in Crisis Response: 911 or 988 - One Crisis Response Doesn’t Fit All! MHSD Day 15


Mental Health Stigma Detox Day 15 - Structural Stigma - how public structures express stigma (stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination) against people experiencing mental illness is a huge part of how mental health stigma negatively impacts people. It’s crucial to solve this area as we seek a mental health stigma-free world!
The point when someone is struggling so much that they or someone close to them has to call for emergency help should be when people rush to their aid and help them become well. While not a reality for many, that reality is becoming more and more true, thanks to national and local advocacy efforts. We recommend looping into the work that AFSP and NAMI have done to make it easy for you to have your voice heard by decision makers about mental health issues. Advocacy Resources: https://afsp.org/public-policy-action-center#/ or https://namimass.org/current-policy-priorities/ or https://www.nami.org/Advocacy/ 
Recent memory in Boston recalls Terrence Coleman’s mother calling 911 for an ambulance to take him to the hospital while experiencing a mental health episode. Instead, armed police officers arrived at the door. They felt threatened by him and took his life.
There has to be a better way. Thankfully, there can be one soon.
Last October, the 988 number was officially put into law to become the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number in July 2022.
At a minimum, it will re-route to existing suicide prevention phone lines. Funding, capacity, and implementation is up to States and Territories. Many people see a vision for 988 as part of a more comprehensive non-violent crisis response system, with armed officers only as a backup last resort.
“Because the fundamental function and training of law enforcement is to address violations of the law, their response to social, behavioral, and mental health emergencies often ends in arrest and criminal charges. Community members and allied professionals, such as social workers, community health workers, and peer support specialists, are best positioned to respond to mental and behavioral health emergencies, including crises related to substance use, lack of housing, or inadequate health care, and can provide referrals for community-based services, ensuring people in crisis get access to the resources they need.”
- NAMI Massachusetts Fact Sheet for (H.2519/S.1552) An Act To Create Alternatives For Community Emergency Services
What to advocate for to leave structural stigma in the past?
There’s so much activity driving change at every level! To make it easy, subscribe to advocacy alerts from:
NAMI National and your local NAMI Chapter (National Alliance on Mental Illness) for advocacy opportunities, updates, and analysis of legislation.
AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) for many simple to use forms to communicate with your federal and state representatives and senators about current and urgent bills that matter to you.
References
1 - “Mother Whose Son Was Fatally Shot By A Boston Cop Files A Civil Rights Lawsuit” by Benjamin Swasey and Simón Rios, WBUR, April 4, 2018
2 - “FAQ for Understanding 988 and How It Can Help with Behavioral Health Crises” Mental Health America, 2020
3 - “An Act To Create Alternatives For Community Emergency Services - H.2519/S.1552 - Sponsored by Rep. Sabadosa and Sen. Chang-Diaz” NAMI Massachusetts, Fact Sheets, 2021