Suicide prevention hotline to change, Ozarks mental health group says access is vital
With suicide rates increasing, the U.S. government is trying to make the national crisis hotline easier to call. The Federal Communications Commission suggested changing the 10-digit number to a three-digit one.
The goal is to make mental health resources simpler to access. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a Southwest Missouri chapter that provides support for people in the Ozarks.
"One in five people have a mental illness in a given year. That's a lot of people and we don't even know we're suffering together," said Addie Blankenship.
For Blankenship, her purpose is personal. She was diagnosed in 2015.
"OCD and generalized anxiety disorder. I was homebound with agoraphobia for about 4 or 5 years," she said. "It took a lot of years away from me."
Now she's the director of NAMI's Hope Center in Springfield.
"Safe place for them to come and feel like they belong, don't have to be afraid to come share about their illness," Blankenship said.
The group provides mental health resources like support groups and a help line. Blankenship said people are surprised to find out NAMI's resources are free.
"People just break down because they're just used to having it so hard to get help," she said.
Blankenship said the need for support in the Ozarks is great, but there are barriers preventing people from getting it, especially in rural areas.
"There's wait times, there's expensive medicine, there is referral processes," she said.
Blankenship said ease of access to mental health resources could make all the difference.
"Anything that would make it easier to get help and support could save lives," she said.
Blankenship said, now that mental health is no longer a "shameful thing," more people are reaching out for help. That's why she shares her story.
"If it can give someone a reason to show up here or make that call or tell a family member, 'Hey, I'm struggling,' I mean, it's worth it to me. I see some purpose in that pain," she said.
She wants others to know there's help out there.
"I would encourage people to make the call. They can always hang up. Just take some kind of a step because I think they'll find that once they take that step there's a whole world of hope out there," Blankenship said.
The FCC is suggesting to change the hotline number to a simple number that's easy to remember, 9-8-8. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or click
for additional help.
For information on the support groups and other resources NAMI's Springfield Hope Center provides, click