National Suicide Prevention Hotline number '988' launches Saturday in NC

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Saturday, July 16, 2022
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The new, and more easily accessible, National Suicide Prevention Hotline, will begin Saturday.

The new, and more easily accessible, National Suicide Prevention Hotline, will begin Saturday.

Instead of having to dial a regular number, anyone needing immediate help can dial 988 to be connected to services during a mental health crisis.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced back in April that the state was awarded $3.3 million to help transition the current 10-digit number to the new 988 number and to get more trained staff in call centers.

"When an individual is having a mental health crisis, when they're experiencing feelings of potentially wanting to harm themselves or harm others, even feelings of extreme sadness and not knowing what to do or who to turn to, they can dial 988," Deepa Avula said.

Avula runs the state division of mental health, development disabilities and substance abuse. She says the 988-suicide lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a trained counselor taking the call.

"The vast majority of calls can actually be handled just on the phone. Just talking to somebody really helps deescalate the situation. If more serious services are needed, the individual is then connected to care or even connected immediately to what we call a mobile crisis team," Avula said.

She and other mental health professionals applaud the availibility of a three digit, easy to remember crisis number serving NC and nationwide.

"This is going to be a great tool in our toolbox, but it can't be the only thing that we invest in when it comes to affecting suicide rates, and they have increased so we have to have real comprehensives look a the perspective and think more about the upstream," Dr. Nerissa Price said.

Price also hopes the new number will lessen the fear of stigmatization surrounding getting mental health service.