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New 988 Crisis Lifeline Offers an Easy to Remember Resource for Mental Health Emergencies In Guilford County, North Carolina

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Guilford County communities gear up to provide compassionate, accessible support to residents in crisis

Guilford County government, NAMI Guilford County, community partners, and providers across the county are gearing up to support the nationwide launch of the new national Crisis Lifeline: 988. Beginning Saturday, July 16, 2022, people can call or text 988 from anywhere in the United State to be connected to compassionate, accessible care anytime a mental or behavioral health crisis occurs. In Guilford County, the Behavioral Health Crisis Center is preparing to see a potential influx of new patients thanks to the new easy-to-remember resource.

“It can be tough to know what to do or who to call when a mental health or substance use crisis is happening, and a resource like 988 makes it easier to access free and confidential help immediately,” said Guilford County Commissioner At-Large Kay Cashion, a long-standing advocate of mental health services. “When you or someone you know is in crisis, all you have to remember is three simple numbers – 988.”

“The 988 Crisis Line is a much-needed resource and is just the first step in building out a more robust crisis response system that will change how our nation treats, supports, and talks about mental health and suicide,” said Madonna Greer, NAMI Guilford President. “This new service provides a trained crisis counselor to listen, understand, and help link callers to community-based providers that can deliver a full range of crisis care services if needed. This new service is free to all and is completely confidential.”

In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes. Suicide is a leading cause of death for people aged 10-34 years. From April 2020 to 2021, over 100,000 individuals died from drug overdoses. Mental health challenges are the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people.

“In North Carolina, as much as 60 percent of youth experiencing depression go without mental health treatment,” said Dr. Whitney Oakley, acting superintendent of Guilford County Schools. “A resource like 988, where students and families can text or chat with a trained professional, will help save lives.”

In the second quarter of 2022 (March 1 – June 30), the Guilford County Behavioral Health Crisis Center served more than 50 youth ages six to 18 and the majority (35%) received support for anxiety.

Debra Mack, Director of the Guilford County Behavioral Health Crisis Center added, “The Guilford County Behavioral Health Crisis Center is open and available for anyone, ages four and older, who needs mental or behavioral health support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are trained and ready to help and, like 988, our service is free and confidential.”

9-8-8 is fully accessible for people of all abilities and includes a Spanish-language option as well as interpretation service in more than 150 languages.

988 services are distinct and separate from the emergency medical and public safety response associated with 911. People should continue to call 911 for emergencies only. An emergency is any serious medical problem (chest pain, seizure, bleeding), any type of fire, any life-threatening situation (fights, people with weapons), or to report a crime in progress.

“The City applauds the addition of the 988 crisis lifeline, which will supplement the services provided by our Behavioral Health Response Team,” said Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan. “We can never have too many mental and behavioral health resources available to Greensboro residents during a time of crisis.”

988 crisis counselors are trained to use the least invasive interventions, when possible, and oftentimes the call, text, or chat itself is the only intervention needed. Chat (English only) is available through the Lifeline’s website https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat 

“Mental health conditions are real, common and treatable, but because of stigma, many people with mental health concerns are untreated or undertreated and don’t know where to turn for help,” said Steve Lingerfelt, City of High Point Information Technology Services Director. “The launch of this new 988 crisis line is a game changer for accessing care when you need it. It’s easy to remember, it’s confidential and it could very well save a life, whether it be yours or the life of someone you love.”

988 is additive. In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s (1-800-273-8255) network of over 200 locally operated and funded crisis centers across the country. North Carolina already participates in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line — 800-273-TALK. That number remains active and starting July 16, that same crisis line will be reachable by also dialing 988.

No appointment is needed at the Guilford County Behavioral Health Crisis Center which is open 24/7 at 931 Third Street in Greensboro. The first of its kind facility in North Carolina was specifically designed for the comfort and care of residents experiencing a mental health crisis and combines behavioral health services and emergency medical care for both adults and adolescents (ages 4-17) presenting in a mental health crisis.

Guilford County and NAMI Guilford County are working together to host a community information session on 988 at the Behavioral Health Crisis Center later this summer. More information will be released in August.

Whether someone is experiencing thoughts of suicide, trouble with their mental health medications, a substance use crisis or any other kind of emotional distress, there is somewhere to call, someone to respond, and someplace to go for support. Call or text 988, or chat with someone at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat today.

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