Students and advocates advocate funding to fight mental health, 988 call center in Greenville Co.

GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Students and mental health advocates have asked for additional funding for the 988 mental health hotline. They went before the Greenville County Legislative Delegation Monday night.

“The suicide hotline is struggling to survive due to a lack of funding,” said Kelyn Bayne, co-president of Minds Matter at Mauldin High School.

“Imagine your son, daughter or grandchild calling 988 in a time of need and being greeted with silence on the other end of the phone. No one is there to answer or they have to wait several hours because the hotline doesn’t have enough money to hire more workers or recruit more volunteers,” Bayne said in her speech to delegates.

This is a real problem for some Greenville County students.

“I would say that this is definitely an issue that cannot be ignored,” said Natalie Flinch, co-president of Minds Matter at Mauldin High School. “No matter who you are, you have someone it affects, more like a relative or a grandchild or something. Mental health affects everyone”

“Mental health in schools is so important and needs to be addressed,” Flinch said. “That’s why we feel so passionate, and that’s what we want to try and get the word out about.”

“Why does my school ID say 988 when there’s not enough money to function properly,” Bayne said.

The district administration has also recognized the need.

“From what we hear, the school idea badges are making use of the students. They call the crisis center, but part of the problem is that the crisis center only has enough funds for about three people at any given time, and the calls are so large that it takes about 25,” said Dr. Ellen Hampshire. Coordinator, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support at Greenville County Schools.

“If someone can’t pick up the phone, it goes to another office. Then it goes further and further away from Greenville. So somewhere else in the state where they might not know our resources or the student might have to wait to connect them to a person,” Hampshire said.

“You can imagine when you’re in a crisis and then you have to wait for someone to help you, and you’re actually just a kid and you have a problem, it can be quite frustrating and some students just hang up,” she says said.

That’s why students from several schools and advocates are asking lawmakers for funding to get more people to answer the call at the Greenville call center.

“Nationwide Lifeline reports that phone calls have increased about 45 percent and chats and texts are growing exponentially,” said Jennifer Piver, executive director, Mental Health America of Greenville County/988 Call Center.

“We’ve had some great partners through the Department of Mental Health [and] The Department of Education is helping us through grants, but we don’t currently have sustainable funding,” Piver said. “So that’s what we’re looking for is funds to help us ramp up staffing so we answer all the calls in the state.”

“We have been told by DMH in Colombia that they have sufficient funding and that is incorrect,” said Nacole Heimat of the Regional Education Center Advisory Board. “So we’re actually asking if we could refocus their government agency just to something we can manage to make sure the students are kept safe.”

Heimat was appointed by the Greenville County Legislative Delegation to deal with mental health in the area.

Students are also demanding more money to help with social and emotional learning.

“Our goal is to really raise awareness about mental health and bring it back to the school board so they don’t forget that mental health is a very important issue that needs to be destigmatized,” Bayne said. “We also hope to work to increase funding for social and emotional learning, 988 and club mental health organizations.”

Bayne said she personally knows people who have suffered from mental illness.

“I remember, I think in eighth grade, one of my cousins ​​started cutting and injuring herself,” Bayne said. “Then I got into high school, and there was a student who took his own life in my freshman year.”

All parties believe that this issue needs to be addressed quickly by everyone, especially those in power.

“Lives are precious and we don’t have to lose another soul to suicide,” Bayne said. “I’m pro-Greenville and funding 988 and SEL would mean you’re pro-Greenville too.”

During the meeting, one delegate said, “Mental health is important to me,” he said. “As far as I understand, I’ve seen some studies [on] the crisis our students in Greenville County are facing compared to previous years to the numbers we are seeing now.

“I ask members here to pay attention, it seems our students are suffering,” the delegate told other members.

After the students contacted the Greenville County Legislative Delegation, the chair said she wanted to keep in touch with the group of students and advocates.

The Chair also urged the group to let delegates know how they can help.

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