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UnitedHealth and Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation Join Forces to Address Increase in Hotline Calls

UnitedHealth Group is one insurer offering Medicare Advantage plans, which cover about one third of people on Medicare.
UnitedHealth Group is one insurer offering Medicare Advantage plans, which cover about one third of people on Medicare.

The stress of the coronavirus pandemic is being blamed for an increase in the number of calls to crisis hotlines. According to the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation (OSPF), some counties have seen as much as a 36 percent increase in calls this year. This is on top of a 67 percent increase since 2016.

UnitedHealth is stepping up its support of the efforts of the Foundation. Chief Medical Officer of UnitedHealth Dr. Srinivas Merugu says the insurer is supplying additional care managers, as well as increasing educational support to health providers throughout the state.

“I think it’s really important to continue to raise awareness in the community," Merugu said. "One, that it’s an urgent health need, and two, to destigmatize it as well ..."

He said the Foundation is receiving more crisis calls from males 25 to 29 years old, veterans and those who are LGBTQ than it has it the past.

"And destigmatizing [mental illness], normalizing the discussion, providing the resources … I think it comes to a change in social awareness, social acceptance and destigmatizing,” Merugu said.

The OSPF says typical warning signs to watch out for include substance abuse, disengagement or changes in eating habits. If you’re in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also text a crisis prevention counselor at 741741.

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