988: Southeastern North Carolina ready for launch of new suicide prevention lifeline number

988: Southeastern North Carolina ready for launch of new suicide prevention lifeline number
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 5:43 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Beginning Saturday, dialing 988 will take you directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

According to the CDC, nearly 46,000 people died by suicide in the United States in 2020 as the country continues to experience a mental health crisis.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline says for every person who takes their own life, 316 others seriously consider suicide.

“We were experiencing loss of life in an alarming way and in a way that we needed to do something that drastically made it easier to access care,” said Rachel Crouse, the New Hanover Program Director at Coastal Horizons.

The number will be in addition to the current lifeline number: 1-800-273-TALK. The funding for the 988 system comes from a federal grant and more than $1 million in North Carolina state funds.

“We’ve seen lots of horrendous things over the last few years with rates of suicide, rates of mental health, rates of substance use increasing,” said Crouse. “People just feeling increasingly hopeless and helpless and I think it’s really important when you feel those things that you do have someone that you can reach out to, and this provides that avenue.”

Officials hope anyone who calls will be directed to the nearest crisis call center, but staffing shortages could create a challenge.

“The hope is that it will go to the local resource center staffing in on that shift,” said Crouse. “In the event that they are not available, it might go a little bit further away.”

The national lifeline took more than 2.5 million calls in 2021.

“It has been long overdue,” Crouse said. “The suicide line has always been there and that’s always been something that we have found to be useful for people, but this just makes it so much easier to remember the number and to know how to access it.”

If you are struggling, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention lifeline is open 24/7. You can call 1-800-273-8255. There’s also an online chat option. You can also call 988 beginning Saturday.

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