Mental Health Support Line
Suicide hotlines have been around for years, but where should people go when they are not in a crisis situation and just need someone with whom they can talk?
The Mental Health Association of San Francisco felt it filled a gap with the San Francisco Peer-Run Warm Line. This “warm line,” a term fashioned from the already understood “hotline,” has been offering free, non-emergency emotional support via telephone or online chat since 2014.
As of 2018, the line was receiving more than 24,000 calls a year, and, surprisingly, only one out of three calls originated from San Francisco. People from as far away as Los Angeles and Butte counties were calling in, and 84 percent were repeat callers. The need to scale up this resource and advertise it statewide was evident.
After Warm Line operators requested funds in this year’s state budget, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Sen. Scott Wiener and I worked to secure $10.8 million over three years to broaden the Warm Line’s reach. On Oct. 7, the California Peer-Run Warm Line made its debut just days before World Mental Health Day, which is observed on Oct. 10.
One in six Californians experiences a mental health challenge at some time in their lives. The Warm Line complements the current mental health care system by offering help before one turns to more expensive, crisis-based interventions. Adding to the program’s success is peer-to-peer engagement. The person on the other end of the line, a peer counselor, has gone through similar mental health challenges and can empathize.
People who call the Warm Line discuss issues such as relationship problems, depression, loneliness, substance abuse and homelessness. These problems can reach a crisis point without ongoing support. While it won’t address all of our mental health needs, the Warm Line can help those who need occasional support or are in the process of seeking out other resources such as therapy.
The California Peer-Run Warm Line number is (855) 845-7415; help is also available by online chat at http://www.mentalhealthsf.org. For now, it is staffed every day beginning at 7 a.m., and ending weekdays at 11 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m., and Sundays at 9 p.m.. The goal is to ramp up to 24/7 staffing by the end of the year.
The state has also made other investments to address the mental health needs of its population. While many of our programs are operated at the county level, they are funded through the state budget by a portion of the state sales tax and the Proposition 63 millionaire’s tax. I am especially proud of our Housing and Homelessness Package in this year’s state budget, which includes a whole-person care initiative that utilizes comprehensive mental health services to help get people off the streets.
The California Peer-Run Warm Line is off to a great start with nearly 600 calls in its first week. I truly believe that when we talk about healthy living, the conversation must also include emotional wellness. I’m committed to looking for more ways to increase mental health resources.
Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco.
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