United Way Is Changing — and Helping Save — Lives through Mental Health Support in Central Alabama

Today, Anna Smith wants to live. A year ago, that wasn’t so clear.

Mental Health Facts Infographic
Mental Health Facts from the American Mental Health Counselors Association. (Click to enlarge.)

She struggled with managing crippling depression, panic attacks and flashbacks of a past sexual assault. A decision to drop out of college as she prioritized her mental health was followed by feelings of failure and thoughts of suicide.

Now, Anna has not had a panic attack in more than three months, lives by herself, works and is pursuing a graduate degree to become a mental health counselor.

Anna’s life changed about one year ago, when she sought counseling services at Oasis Counseling for Women and Children, a United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) partner agency.

Through Oasis’s individual and group counseling sessions, Anna has identified reasons she wants to live, has learned to better manage her emotions daily and feels more connected with her friends and family.

Anna is far from the only person in Central Alabama to experience mental health problems. Across six counties that UWCA serves, an average of 18.7% of adults report experiencing poor mental health for two weeks out of every month.

The Crisis Center, which runs a number of local crisis lines and the local 988 center, has received more than 3,600 calls to its purely local Crisis and Suicide Line and its Youth Talk Line since the beginning of 2024. Callers have cited a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, grief and family conflict among other crises.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s a fitting time to highlight the various ways that United Way provides services to improve mental health in the communities we serve.

Through our network of partners and programs, more than 58,000 people received direct mental health services in 2023. That includes a variety of partners, including agencies such as Oasis, Impact Family Counseling and Central Alabama Wellness, which all provide traditional counseling services.

Additionally, mental health services were provided last year by partners such as The Amelia Center, a Children’s of Alabama program that provides grief counseling to children and parents, and Family Sunshine Center, which provides counseling, advocacy and residential services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

Mental health is affected by a complex web of factors in people’s lives, including genetics and life events, as well as current situations with relationships, finances and the world around them.

United Way’s massive network of partners and programs provides not only direct mental health services, such as counseling and therapy, but also a variety of other programming to address the many outside factors affecting people’s mental health.

That work includes everything from assistance with financial and housing stability to hunger relief and improving the quality of education that children in Central Alabama receive.

How do I get help?

Connecting people to services that best fit their needs is done primarily through our 2-1-1 Information & Referral Center. UWCA’s Call Specialists at 2-1-1 answer inquiries from all six counties of our service area: Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker, as well as Cullman County. In 2023, they responded to more than 27,000 inquiries. Calls to 2-1-1 are confidential and can be anonymous.

Get Help

Callers Most Frequent Needs in 2023:

  • Housing Assistance: 13,372 calls
  • Utility Assistance: 8,351 calls
  • Transportation Assistance: 1,700 calls
  • Food/Meals: 1,393 calls
  • Individual, Family and Community Support: 1,368 calls

For more information about 2-1-1 and the services provided, please visit https://www.uwca.org/need-help/211-call-center, or call 2-1-1 to speak with a trained specialist.