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Suicide crisis calls leap with new hotline

St. Joseph News-Press - 8/15/2022

Aug. 15—Suicide prevention calls in Northwest Missouri have increased by about a third in the first month since a new federal hotline was established.

Early numbers provide hope that the 988 crisis line could help in the struggle with suicide prevention, Family Guidance Center CEO Kristina Hannon said.

"I don't think that's enough," she said. "I think that that will continue to go up and I think that we want to see that number continue to go up because we know that 90 days is very new. And while we're glad people are hearing about it and are starting to use it, we know there are other people who can use (the service)."

People who call the helpline are connected to a mental health professional, and soon there will be the added option to text with a professional, Hannon said. FGC also has mobile mental health professionals who can visit with people at home during a crisis or meet at a location if they're more open to that option, she said.

But not all response has been so positive. Some reports have indicated people aren't as receptive to the hotline and disinformation about the service is a serious concern, said Dr. Adam Buhman-Wiggs, director of The Guidance Center in Atchison, Kansas.

"They just won't call and they won't encourage others to call. And of course, without intervention, you have a dramatic increase in the likelihood that someone will actually follow through on a suicidal gesture or that they will collapse into other self-destructive behavior because of their crisis," he said. "You know, that's the worst-case scenario, is that people won't pick up the phone and then they will lose out on all of that potential support and encouragement and resources that the 988 line would bring to them."

The next step is getting people more acclimated to using the call line. The ideal situation would be getting people to call before they reach the point of a crisis, Hannon said.

"A lot of that just comes with education because people don't want it," she said. "Sometimes what we hear is, 'Well, it's not a crisis. I don't want to kill myself. I'm not suicidal, I'm not hearing voices, but what do I do?' What we want you to do is to call 988 and get linked up with our mobile crisis team and talk with them so that we can get you quick access to care and help people before it becomes a crisis."

Alex Simone can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @NPNOWSimone.


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