United Way CT Honored During Mental Health Awareness Month

Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, and, most recently, Naomi Judd —just a few of the celebrities in the past few years who made international news and elevated the nation’s awareness of mental health and suicide due to the fact that, tragically, each of them died by suicide. 

The good news is that Connecticut is home to 211 CT —our state’s free, confidential information and referral service that connects people to the support they need —online and over the phone, one person at a time, all day, every day, year-round.  

211 connects struggling individuals and families to basic needs, provides emergency and disaster response as part of the state’s emergency response team, offers housing crisis help, and provides intervention for people in crisis —including triage and connection to youth and adult mobile mental health crisis teams in our state.

West Hartford resident and United Way of Connecticut’s new Director of Communications Carin Buckman is a loss survivor. “I lost my son Brian to suicide three years ago. I watched him struggle and spiral into darkness. He refused help —I felt so alone and didn’t know where to turn,” Buckman shared. “I knew there were resources available through UWC’s 211 Youth Mobile Crisis Intervention Services in partnership with CT Department of Children and Families, but Brian was 25 years old and I felt powerless. I am so grateful that the CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services partnered with 211 to establish the ACTION Line – a crisis line for adults – in 2020.” 

Anyone – youth or adult – in the midst of a mental health or emotional crisis, like Brian, can dial 211 and press option 1, or dial 1-800-HOPE-135 to connect with a Crisis Contact Specialist who will provide telephone support, information, referrals to community resources and a warm transfer to Mobile Crisis Teams when needed. “In my new role, I can honor Brian’s memory by helping spread the word.  We want everyone in our state to know that these critical resources are available,” Buckman said.  

During 2021, the 211 CT crisis team handled 124,000 crisis calls from adults: 94% of those callers reported that their state of crisis diminished while on the phone with a 211 crisis specialist, and less than 1% of those calls (.56%) required escalation to 911.  

UWC 211 also responded to 13,762 youth crisis callers: in 93% of these cases, 211 CT was able to dispatch youth mobile crisis response teams to help; only 3% of youth crisis calls to 211 required 911 intervention.

The UWC team had the privilege to meet Shannon Parkin, who was honored with the 2022 AAS Transforming Lived Experience Award for her work with survivors. Shannon attempted suicide in 2015.  As a speaker and Connection Recovery Facilitator with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Shannon shared, “I am so impressed with the low percentage of calls to 211 CT that require 911 response,” referring to the fear that some callers in crisis may have about an effort to access help resulting in a police call. “This shows how supportive the 211 CT contact specialists are. If more people in distress knew how rarely 211 CT has to escalate to 911, I believe the number of calls to 211 CT would increase and more people would receive the assistance they need.”

Lisa Tepper Bates, President & CEO of United Way of Connecticut shares that “Since the very beginning, 211 CT has been an important partnership between United Way of CT and our state government. We are particularly grateful to Governor Ned Lamont and Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, who are among our greatest champions, and we are incredibly grateful for our close partnership with the Connecticut Departments of Social Service, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Children and Families, and Public Health. Due to their support, we have been able to increase our amazing crisis prevention staff, which has surely contributed to our call center success. We are humbled and grateful to receive this award.”

“Since 2015, the Department has partnered with United Way/211 of CT to offer suicide prevention support to our residents,” said Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Nancy Navarretta. “This high performing team is a well-deserving recipient of this award, as their interventions, dedicated well-trained staff, and forward-thinking approach have positively affected countless lives.”

“Since 2009, 211 CT has worked closely with the Department of Children and Families to assist youth and families in need of behavioral health support,” said Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families Vannessa Dorantes. “With the increased attention to the mental health of children and adolescents challenged by the pandemic, strong partnerships are critical between agencies to ensure effective service delivery. Through 211, phone-based interventions are available and as required, mobile crisis teams can reach youth across our state to provide an in-person response. We thank United Way of CT for this continued partnership.” 

“The Connecticut Department of Public Health is pleased to partner with United Way of CT and 211 on suicide prevention efforts, including our shared effort to start education at an early age with our Gizmo material, helping children on how to care for their mental health and how to connect with trusted adults for support,” said DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD. “From a public health perspective, we are learning to ramp up and ramp down our preparedness for COVID-19 — but we don’t have that luxury with mental health and suicide. Thanks to the United Way of Connecticut, there are options for those who feel they are in a dark place and need someone to turn to for help.”

The Connecticut 211 Contact Center is accredited by the American Association of Suicidology for crisis intervention and handles Connecticut calls from the 211 line (2-1-1), the Action Line (1-800-HOPE-135), as well as from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK). In addition, CT 211 will provide response to Connecticut calls to the new 988 mental health and suicide prevention line, which will become active July 1. 

Suicide is preventable. We encourage anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, or facing mental health issues to engage pro-actively with existing support resources. For more information about mental health resources in Connecticut visit the Mental Health Page on the 211 Connecticut website (www.211ct.org). 

ABOUT UNITED WAY OF CONNECTICUT 211

The mission of United Way of Connecticut 211 (UWC 211) is to help meet the needs of Connecticut and its residents by providing information, education and connection to services. 211 is a free, confidential information and referral service that connects people to essential health and human services 24 hours a day, seven days a week either online or over the phone. Every day, highly trained 211 Contact Specialists respond to inquiries related to food insecurity, childcare assistance, utility or rent support, homelessness or mental health and substance use. UWC 211 Connecticut has organizational accreditations from the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), and the American Association of Suicidology for crisis intervention. Learn more at 211ct.org. Visit our media center for media requests and inquiries.