GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — The new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is seeing an increase in callers since its launch in July, according to officials with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Guilford.
Madonna Greer, the President of NAMI Guilford, said the North Carolina call center in Greensville saw a 71% increase in calls the week after the 988 launch, compared to the week before.
Since 2012, North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has partnered with REAL Crisis Intervention, Inc. in Greenville to operate the NC Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
NCDHHS said they expected up to 30% more calls to the hotline with the new number.
The new 988 number started on July 16, 2022 allowing anyone to call the three-digit number and be connected directly with a crisis counselor. The hotline builds off the existing National Suicide Prevention Hotline but is designed to increase accessibility to mental health services and get people the right help quickly.
Greer said the week before 988 launched, the Greenville call center received 1,300 calls. In the week after, it received 2,200 calls. The call center also saw an increase in youth calling the number. Calls from youth ages 13-17 went up 186% and calls from ages 13-17 went up 130%. Greer said the Greenville call center has been prepared for this increase.
"Prior to 988 going live, the federal government has been staffing up those call centers," Greer said. "What we're using is the original network of the 1-800 (hotline) and then we're building out more centers."
According to NCDHHS, in May 2022, 98% of the calls at the Greenville center were answered in less than seven seconds which is the second-best rate in the country.
"What they actually try to do at 988 is to talk to the person, to help them problem solve what is the best way for them to stay safe," Greer said. "Because we all know (the best way) for someone to work through their mental health concern is for them to be actively engaged, to work with that mental clinician on the phone to come up with a safety plan."