One year since the Lifeline number changed to 9-8-8

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It’s been one year since Wisconsin’s crisis lifeline changed it’s number to 9-8-8. When the suicide hotline number changed to 9-8-8, it received over 72,000 phone calls. That’s an average of 5,900 calls a month.

In the one year since 9-8-8 began, there is now a remote workforce, to help handle the number of calls.

Caroline Crehan Neumann is the Crisis Services Coordinator and 988 State Planning Lead. She said calls are the most common way people can get the help they need. Since the Lifeline number changed to 9-8-8, texting the crisis lifeline has seen a 1,000% increase across the nation. Including an over 1,000% increase in Wisconsin.

“What we’ve been doing Wisconsin, DHS in partnership with Family Services, Wisconsin Lifeline, we have been applying for grants at the federal level and with a real focus on hiring more staff,” Crehan Neumann said. “This is staff from leadership to support staff to the front line lifeline counselors who are answering the calls, chats and texts. And we have really specific strategic plans on how to ramp up those Lifeline counselors.”

Crehan Nuemann said that they are currently working on expanding their services to beyond suicide prevention. They also want to help give advice and resources to friends and family members of people struggling.

“9-8-8 is not only for people who are in the midst of struggling with mental health, substance use or suicidal crisis. It can also be for people who are concerned about somebody,” Crehan Neumann said. “You can call, chat on the computer, text from your phone, and it can be as intensive or relaxed as you need it to be.”

Shelly Missal, the Wisconsin Lifeline Program manager said that follow-up phone calls is around 5,000. Although they are hoping to expand those numbers to check in with people struggling.

“We’re working on really building out and becoming more robust with some follow up surveys. Things we do offer follow up calls to our callers, depending on the appropriateness. We do make follow up calls to check in with people if they agree to that service after their call.”

If you, a friend or family member are struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues you can call, text and chat 988 for support.

For more information about 988 you can look here. For other stories about mental health you can look here.