988 – It can save your life

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, August 1, 2023

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Most of us know to call 911 in case of an emergency. Some of us know to call 811 before we dig holes in our yard to avoid disrupting underground utilities. But how many of us know to call 988?  Recently, I was at an NC Healthcare Association meeting and leadership from the 988 National Line was presenting the data on how few Americans are aware of this 988 number and the services it provides. In a room of healthcare professionals, the e-poll showed that less than 25% of the room was deeply informed about the services 988 provides. I learned many things myself that day about this exceptional resource and I want to share that knowledge with you.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) is a national network of local crisis centers providing free and confidential suicide and crisis lifeline. If you or someone you know is in crisis, 988 is here to help. 

In 2020, Congress designated the 988 dialing code to operate through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Today, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) believes 988 is the first step in transforming the crisis care system in America. Since its beginning, the 988 Lifeline has been immersed in several programs to strengthen crisis services, including public messaging, best practices in mental health, and innovative coalitions. 

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The closest 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Center to Polk County is the Mental Health America of Greenville County (MHAGC) in South Carolina. In addition to the Lifeline, MHAGC provides screenings for depression and other mental health issues. MHAGC also provides housing, support groups, and a Reassurance Line 24/7. To learn more, visit mhagc.org.

If you’re struggling with grief, anxiety, or depression, or thinking of suicide, call 988. MHAGC is here to help, not to judge. Their team will talk you through your struggles, share ways to cope, and put you in touch with local resources. There are three ways to contact MHAGC for prompt help—call 988, text 988, or chat. You may be in a crisis or want to discuss something on your mind, either way, please know MHAGC is here for you.

When you call 988, you’ll hear a short greeting, followed by music, until you connect to a trained crisis counselor. When texting 988, you’ll complete a brief survey that gives your crisis counselor background information on your circumstance. Your counselor will reply to your message.

Once connected, you and the counselor will converse, giving the counselor a deeper understanding of your experiences. The counselor can then provide support, work through solutions to improve how you feel, and connect you with resources for long-term support. Don’t wait to call 988.

We all have a role in preventing suicide, and Lifeline has plenty of opportunities to get involved. The first and most important role we can play is to raise consciousness about mental health and suicide prevention. Share with others the 988 number and encourage usage of it!

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is ground zero for mental health care within each county across the country. These centers are a safety net and may even serve as the last resort for those at serious risk. The Lifeline network depends on community volunteers to support people in crisis. While Lifeline is a national program, the funds that support the crisis center network come from grants and local donors. MHAGC still needs to identify sustainable funding to staff the 988 SC Lifeline call center fully. The program gratefully accepts contributions from many dedicated volunteers and financial supporters.

If you have a healthcare topic of interest or want to learn more about St. Luke’s Hospital, send me a note at Michelle.Fortune@slhnc.org. Also, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or visit our website at StLukesNC.org.