FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) – The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and Broward County have helped launch the new 988 number aiming to help those in distress during their time of need.
The hotline gives a new hope for those in Broward County living in crisis, from mental illness to substance abuse and suicide.
“It’s our neighbors, it’s our family members, it’s our closest friends, it’s our colleagues, it’s anyone that’s been impacted by mental health,” said 988 helpline counselor Cecilia Boza.
Broward County’s 211 is just one of roughly 200 locally operated crisis centers across the nation.
They joined forces with the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to launch 988, which has become the new and easy-to-remember national number that is dedicated to crisis response.
“It’s important for the people living with mental illness and suicidal thoughts have that opening, that place they reach to, to get services,” said Dr. Sandra Cumper-Boynton, executive director of NAMI Broward County.
The federally mandated program has opened phone lines as part of a soft launch back on July 16. Mental health professionals expect an increase in calls for help, and the numbers are already proof in Broward County.
“In the period starting Saturday and running through Wednesday, we’ve already seen a 40% increase in calls to the 988 number,” said Sheila Smith, president and CEO of 211 Broward. “What that translates into in terms of real numbers: 39 calls that came in that first day, 17 calls into the 211 number, both of which were crisis related, for a total of 56 incoming calls, just on that first day.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline started in 2005, but as a 10-digit number. In 2020, the call line received 3.6 million calls, chats and text.
Once 988 becomes more familiar, the staff expects 56,000 calls annually in Broward County alone.
In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes, and for people aged between the ages of 10 and 34, suicide is a leading cause of death.
“We want to open up our hearts and our ears to be willing to listen. This comes from a place of no judgement. This comes from a place with a trauma-informed lenses,” said Boza.
The numbers 988 are giving people somewhere to call, someone to respond and services in place to help.
The new 988 number will not replace other community numbers such as 911 or 211. The crisis lifeline is also in place to help military veterans.
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