More calls coming into 988, the new number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline
On July 16, a three-digit number, 988, replaced the previous 10-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The change was years in the making.
"The reason for the change is to improve access," said Jessica Pirro, President and CEO for Crisis Services who explains when a crisis emerges "our thinking gets restricted, our creativity to manage through those feelings gets restricted." Recalling a shorter, simpler number might make a life-or-death difference.
Crisis Services is one of over 200 agencies across the country that make up the network which will answer calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. A mental health crisis specialist takes the call "to be able to provide that support, safety planning, counseling and information and referral to local services that could be available for that person in need," Pirro said.
In 2021, the national line answered 3.6 million calls. Planners expect an increase this year to the new number.
"We've definitely seen an uptick since we launched (the new number) on the 16th of July." At Crisis Services, Pirro says, they averaged between 125 to 150 calls per week. That number has increased to 180.
"We definitely have seen an uptick of calls overnight."
The pandemic and the May 14 mass shooting at the Jefferson Avenue Tops have contributed to a collective anxiety.
"Fortunately, here at Crisis Services our mobile services are under our organization. In some other counties they are in different organizations," Pirro said.
"But we find it very helpful to have it all under one roof because that hotline call, once that counselor realizes this is rising to a little bit of a different situation, more intervention is needed, a face-to-face visit is required, then it heads to our outreach team who then continues that evaluation assessment while also dispatching out a team into the community to meet that family or that individual in crisis to help evaluate their safety."