988 provides quicker options for mental health support
Since the National Suicide Crisis Lifeline’s transition to ‘988’ last July, Mississippi crisis call centers have noted an increase in calls, texts, and web chats. 988 serves as a universal entry point so that no matter where you live in the United States, you can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help.
“We’ve seen an increase of more than 2,000 calls this year,” said Brenda Patterson, director of CONTACT the Crisis Line, the main 988 center in Mississippi.
New to 988 is the ability for centers to receive texts and chats via 988lifeline.org.
“A majority of our web chats or texts come from young people, ages 13-24,” said Patterson. “Chat and text allows us to reach everyone who feels more comfortable communicating in that way about their difficulties, whether it is youth, individuals with hearing impairments, those who have characteristics of Autism, and others.”
Ja’Quila Newsome is the director of suicide prevention for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health and travels the state giving presentations to schools, organizations, and community groups.
“Our campaign is called ‘Shatter the Silence,’ because it’s important for friends and family members of someone struggling with mental distress to speak up and offer support,” said Newsome.
The most important thing for Mississippians to know is to reach out for help. Patterson addressed a common fear of embarrassment that might prevent someone from calling.
“Our call center does not record calls, and callers can remain anonymous. We want people to feel comfortable calling, chatting, or texting with 988 before their challenges escalate to a crisis point where they are having thoughts of suicide,” Patterson said. “But if they have reached that point, they are not alone, and additional mental health resources can be accessed if they would like.”