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Originally published: October 27, 2022

Financial stress leads to uptick in mental health calls at Omaha organization

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Many organizations that help families and individuals in a time of need are seeing an increase in food and housing assistance but one organization told 3 News Now Reporter Molly Hudson, the spike in calls they are seeing for individuals and families reaching out for mental and behavioral health resources is concerning.

You are probably feeling the cost of clothes, food, gas and other essentials weighing heavy on your wallet, but is it also weighing on your mind?

“It just creates overall stress on the household, overall stress on parents trying to provide for family or their children, things like that,” said Matt Wallen, senior vice president, community impact and analytics, United Way of the Midlands.

Wallen said mental health services are needed in the community right now.

“About 32% have indicated they have experienced a symptom of depression in the latest community health needs assessment,” Wallen said.

The 2-1-1 helpline at United Way of the Midlands receives calls for all types of assistance; housing, utilities and other financial needs and overall Wallen said they have seen an increase in calls.

“The number of calls have increased about 30% year-over-year,” Wallen said. “Pretty significant uptick in mental health calls. Year-to-date we are at 250 more calls than we had last year this time.”

Sixty percent of those calls are from people who earn $15,000 or less in a year. Fifty-five percent are female and about a third are 18 years old or younger.

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John Stemple

And when the calls come in, “they’ll work with different partners, different non-profit agencies in our community to identify who has (the) capacity and who is able to meet the needs of those callers as soon as possible,” Wallen said.

But with the workforce shortage and increased need, “It’s causing a longer wait for access to services and then when we look across the income levels. The lower income individuals have a harder time accessing that service and that level of care that they need,” Wallen said.

He said it’s concerning for the whole community.

“And we think how that relates to the overall well-being of the community about being resilient and being able to overcome difficult times,” Wallen said.

United Way of the Midlands has launched a Mental Health First Aid program to increase understanding of mental health challenges in the community, the training is open to individuals and organizations.