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take care of mental health during the holiday season

Gov. Tony Evers and First Lady Kathy Evers on Nov. 24 shared a video message encouraging Wisconsinites to take care of their mental health during the holiday season.   

Earlier this year, in recognition of the troubling statistics seen over the past few years regarding mental health and the growing demand for mental and behavioral health services providers have seen across the state, Gov. Evers declared2023 the Year of Mental Health, calling mental and behavioral health a “burgeoning crisis” affecting the state and Wisconsin’s kids, families and workforce.  

Evers has expanded access to mental and behavioral healthcare services, and the 2023-25 biennial budget which the governor signed earlier this year, included several investments to ensure more Wisconsinites can get the mental healthcare they need, including students, farmers and veterans. Some of those investments include: 

  • Providing $30 million to continue support for school-based mental health services modeled on the governor’s successful “Get Kids Ahead” Initiative.   
  • Providing $200,000 for mental health assistance to farmers and farm families. This crucial funding enables farmers and farm family members to access in-person counseling services from a participating mental health provider in their local area at no cost.
  • Increasing funding by 25% for county veteran services offices and Tribal veterans service offices, which help veterans connect to benefits, preventative programming, and mental health resources. 
  • Providing more than $30 million over the biennium to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for services provided in hospital behavioral health units.
  • Providing $7 million over the biennium for the psychiatry and behavioral health residency program at the Medical College of Wisconsin to support recruitment and training of psychiatry and behavioral health residents.
  • Providing $10 million in funding for up to two crisis urgent care and observation centers, which will serve as regional receiving and stabilization facilities to improve service delivery and patient outcomes.  
  • Providing $2 million over the biennium to establish a telemedicine crisis response pilot program in order to provide faster and more efficient care.
  • Providing more than $1 million over the biennium for social-emotional training and technical assistance for child care providers.
  • Providing more than $500,000 in Tribal gaming revenues over the biennium to the Oneida Nation for staff and service costs in their Healing to Wellness Court to support a coordinated, post-conviction substance use program that will reduce recidivism and break the cycle of substance use. 

In addition to the governor’s budget investments, earlier this year Evers and Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Bond launched the Veteran Mental Health Community-Based Organization Grant program and announced anearly $650,000 in grants to 16 nonprofit organizations to promote positive mental health through activities, programs, and services that enhance the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of Wisconsin veterans. In September, Evers also announced two additional veteran mental health grants for mental health providers to serve veterans with crisis or emergency mental health needs and for licensed providers to administer mental health services to veterans.

In addition, in October, Evers announced that DHS is receiving nearly $17 million in new federal funding to enhance operations of the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline, the service that answers calls, texts and chats to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline from Wisconsin-based phone numbers and locations.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline launched in July 2022 after U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) led efforts to establish the program and secure funding. In its first year of service, Wisconsin’s 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline received more than 91,800 contacts — one of the highest call volumes in the nation — and individuals reported struggling with suicidal thoughts and intent, as well as challenges with mental health, substance use, and interpersonal or relationship issues and abuse. The state has also seen record-high rates of substance use and overdose deaths in recent years, with more than 1,700 Wisconsinites having lost their lives to an overdose in 2022 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Furthermore, research shows that the holiday season can be a particularly difficult time of year for individuals struggling with their mental or behavioral health, including increased financial stress, loneliness and grief, depression, and increased substance misuse. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. 

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommends a variety of strategies to help folks and families take care of their mental health during the holiday season, including:  

  • Spending time with people who love and support you.  
  • Avoid overbooking yourself, and do not feel guilty about making time for yourself. 
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, and do not drink if you are feeling down.  
  • Take time to exercise, move, and get outside if the weather is nice.  
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and prioritizing rest when needed. 

More strategies and tips for staying healthy and resilient this holiday season are available on DHS’s website at

In addition to increased stress around the holidays, according to the Office of Children’s Mental Health’s 2022 Annual Report, about one-third of kids in Wisconsin experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness nearly every day — a 10% increase over the last decade. The report also states that more than half of Wisconsin youth report anxiety, and nearly a quarter report self-harm. Find helpful conversation starters and tips for talking with teens to help families connect with kids during the holiday season on the Office of Children’s Mental Health website at

Anyone in need of support can call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide & Crisis Hotline at all hours of the day or night to talk with a trained counselor about any challenge or concern. This service is free and confidential. 

Additional mental health resources are available on the DHS website at:  

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