988 suicide prevention lifeline launches in the Carolinas

Getting mental health help is as simple as dialing 9-8-8. Like dialing 911 during an emergency, 988 is now for mental health emergencies.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been 10 digits for years, but the new number makes it easier to access.

“When you are stuck in a dark place only with your own thoughts, it can be hard to see the way out,” said Kristen Houser with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. “This is an opportunity and we want people to reach out so that they know that they’re not alone.”

Each state has to fund its own 988 crisis call center.

Channel 9 reached out to health leaders in both Carolinas. Those in South Carolina say they already have systems in place for these calls, although one mental health provider says more funding is needed to handle high call volumes.

WCIV reports back in April, the South Carolina Senate pulled almost all state funding for the hotline. That forced the only call center in South Carolina, located in Greenville County, to create a GoFundMe. The crowdfunding link was set up due to what officials said was a lack of resources they need to support the new system.

As of July 14, the GoFundMe only has a little over $2,000 raised out of a $1.3 million goal. Officials said that money won’t be enough to sustain this new system.

“We need volunteers, we need dedicated staff, but the funding has not been able to help us support that at this point,” Director of Crisis Intervention Services with Mental Health America, Greenville County Kathy Eckart told WCIV. “I think we all know what we can do and what we’re capable of. I think it’s just the capacity that is that makes us nervous.”

In North Carolina, the state health department expects more callers, so it’s using a $3.3 million grant to expand staffing.

The original Suicide Prevention Lifeline number still works. If you need help right now, you’re not alone. Call 1-800-273-8255.

(WATCH BELOW :Regulators to set up 3-digit suicide hotline number like 911)

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