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Suicide lifeline calls up 250 percent, Northeast Florida director says

One year since it's launch, the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline is receiving up to 50 calls a day in Northeast Florida, according to the director.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — One year since its launch, the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline is receiving 250 percent more calls locally, according to the director.

The director of the lifeline in Northeast Florida says this shows the new three-digit number, which you can also text, is saving lives. One person who took that first step in making a call is Casie Ellison. She knows what it's like to need to ask for help.

"It made it to a point where I felt like there was no place for me in this world," Ellison said. "Even my children were going to be better off without me."

Now she knows that isn't true. Ellison called a help line at her work, which connected her to a therapist. That call was her first step toward reaching milestones in her mental health journey.

Ellison now runs a nonprofit called Change the Face of Depression, which she says at each event is helping more people feel comfortable working on their own mental health and asking for help.

Calls to the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline are helping more people. Elizabeth Findley is the 988 director at United Way of Northeast Florida and says they're receiving 250 percent more calls one year since the launch of the three-digit number. She says that's up to 50 calls a day.

"They call in, right, and our our main goal is to get people connected to services," Findley said.

Findley says the program is still figuring out the best way to collect data on how many of the callers follow up with getting mental healthcare after making the initial call. More people are taking the first step of calling.

"We're reaching more people than we ever have," Findley said. "I think more people are having access to services than before and also is creating a space for our community to really rally around each other and to collaborate so that we can address these needs."

Findley says the stigma around mental health is going down, which is part of what's contributing to the higher call volumes. According to the CDC, nearly 50,000 people died by suicide in the U.S. in 2021 and people 85 and older have the highest rates of suicide.

Findley says fewer than two percent of their calls end with any type of law enforcement interaction. This is something that was a concern online when 988 launched. Findley says they only refer out law enforcement if there's a high lethality if there is potentially a weapon involved.

Call 988 if you need emergency help with your mental health to get connected with resources. The lifeline is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Ellison is looking for volunteers to work remotely for Change the Face of Depression. Learn more about that here.


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