Indiana’s suicide hotline is lighting up–and exposing the failures of capitalist healthcare

The people of Indiana and the United States need care in this time of crisis and instability, and mental health is a vital aspect of this. A recent Indianapolis Star article reports that Indiana’s suicide hotline has experienced a drastic 25-fold increase in calls—from 1,000 per day to 25,000 per day. The state’s addiction hotline reported that calls increased seven times—from 20 per week to 20 per day.

A pandemic on the scale of COVID-19 can significantly increases stress, isolation, and a sense of powerlessness for people. While social distancing and quarantine practices, which are necessary precautions to slow the spread of the virus, are no doubt factors, there are other structural issues that exacerbate the situation.

Although the Indiana Department of Workforce Development has not yet released the official unemployment numbers for March, RTV6 reported that 146,000 state residents applied for unemployment in the last week of March alone. Applying for unemployment is no guarantee for actually receiving unemployment benefits. Further, it can take weeks to qualify, and then additional weeks to receive and money.

Yet we can see other intensifying factors in the state and federal government responses to the crisis. Indiana is encouraging people to use the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and to search out resources in their communities. However, this places the burden on individuals to find effective treatment and preventative resources, instead of on the government to make sure mental health services are available.

In February 2020, the Family and Social Security Administration of Indiana reported that over 600,000 people in Indiana are enrolled in Medicaid.  Assuming this ratio is true for Indianapolis, that means approximately 60,000 residents of the city are on Medicaid. However, Psychology Today lists fewer than 40 providers who accept Medicaid (and purchase ads on their website) in Indianapolis. That is a rate of 1,500 potential clients to one therapist or agency. This also ignores uninsured and unemployed people who have no benefits and/or cannot afford to use them for mental health.

It doesn’t have to be this way. What Indiana and the country desperately need is preventative, accessible healthcare across all aspects of our lives. The working people of Indiana are shouldering greater demand in this time of instability or are out of work and trying to ration their limited resources. We need free, accessible primary prevention and proactive resources to help people navigate this crisis. We need a social system that protects the people, not profits.

While the national government spends trillions of dollars bailing out corporations, there is no conversation taking place about keeping us safe by removing the barriers such as premiums, deductibles, or non-approved providers. ANSWER Indiana demands that President Trump and Governor Holcomb provide real health care to the people of Indiana and the United States because mental health is part of health.

If you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 (or connect with them through Facebook Messenger). And please join us to help fight for the right to healthcare, and sign our petition to protect Hoosiers during this time of crisis!