988 provides quicker options for mental health support

Published 5:00 pm Friday, May 5, 2023

Since the National Suicide Crisis Lifeline’s transition to 988 in July 2022, Mississippi crisis call centers have noted an increase in calls, texts and web chats.

988 serves as a universal entry point so that a trained crisis counselor can be reached, no matter when the caller lives in the United States.

“We’ve seen an increase of more than 2,000 calls this year,” said Brenda Patterson, director of CONTACT the Crisis Line — Mississippi’s main 988 call center.

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New to the program 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.”