Milwaukee call center provides 24-hour help to people experiencing holiday sadness

NOW: Milwaukee call center provides 24-hour help to people experiencing holiday sadness

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- This time of year can be a difficult one. It's common for people to have feelings of loneliness or sadness.

Trained professionals are standing by 24/7 at a crisis call center in Milwaukee County's Behavioral Health Division.

They're there to talk through problems, and there's nothing too small or insignificant to call about.

Lauren Hubbard, the Division's director of community crisis services, says if something's important to you, it's important to the clinicians picking up the phone.

The service is free.

"Someone who is just listening to you unconditionally and reflecting back and maybe offering some assistance...can be really the difference between life and death," said Mike Lappen, the Divison's administrator.

The response team took 9,000 calls in 2018, and they want to take more.

Lappen says they know the need is out there, but a stigma against mental illness can keep people quietly suffering.

That's where the hotline's anonymity can help.

"At times reaching out to a stranger can be one of the safest things to do," Hubbard said. "There's no wrong door, so if you hit the wrong number or you call looking for a service that may not be offered, we'll insure you get what you're looking for."

A new national hotline number will soon make it much easier to connect too.

The FCC is setting up 988, similar to 911 or 311, and dialing will direct callers to resources near them.

Milwaukee County's call center will be a part of the network.

"A single number getting you to the right place right away is an amazing way to connect people to the care they need," Lappen said.

The 988 hotline number is scheduled to be available in 18 months.

In the meantime, the county's crisis team can be reached at (414) 257-7222.

It's OK to call on behalf of a friend or family member, not just for yourself.

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