D.C. is reminding its residents during Mental Health Awareness Month that anyone can call its mental health hotline, 1-888-7WE-HELP, at any time — day or night.
Mayor Muriel Bowser visited one of the city's community-based organizations that provides mental health services to highlight the Access HelpLine on Friday.
She pointed out during her remarks that help is there for anyone who needs it. People just have to ask.
"It's ok to ask for help if you're feeling depressed, you're feeling anxious. You may not even put a word, be able to put a word to how you're feeling, but you're not feeling like yourself," Bowser said.
Trained behavioral health professionals who staff the hotline can activate mobile crisis teams to respond to adults and children who are experiencing a psychiatric or emotional crisis and are unable or unwilling to travel to receive behavioral health services.
They can also connect callers to ongoing care services in their respective neighborhoods.
Before Bowser spoke Friday, peer counselor Garett Young shared his struggle with mental health issues and substance abuse.
"I might not be where I want to be, but I thank [I'm not] where I was, either," Young said. "Today, I'm not homeless. I have a job, today. I'm a productive member of society - and I'm paying bills."
"It’s good to be able to pay bills, isn't it?" Bowser said.
D.C. created the hotline to help with an increased demand for mental health services during the pandemic, but officials say the hotline has been funded indefinitely.
Specialists can connect people to mental health and substance abuse programs as well as job placement and other services.
In the past two years, the hotline has received more than 5,600 calls, which is about eight calls per day.
But there are still many who are reluctant to ask for help.
"Stigma is a major barrier. We gotta move mental health out of the shadows," Dr. Barbara Bazron, the director of the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health, said. "If you need services, please reach out. Please reach out. Good mental health is just as important as good physical health."
While the hotline was established for D.C. residents, anyone who calls from outside D.C. will be connected to resources in their state, officials say.