COLORADO SPRINGS — The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 10 digit number is still active but a shortened version 9-8-8 was introduced over the weekend.
If you have an out-of-state area code, continue to use the original number, 1-844-493-8255, or text TALK to 38255, to get the help you need.
“None of us could remember the suicide prevention hotline or as we tried to commit to memory, it was hard to recite back to folks and things like that, said Ray Merenstein, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness. “So, the belief was if we were seeing the numbers that we were seeing in suicide attempts as well as completion of suicide, this reality is we needed to find something that worked even better.”
National Alliance on Mental Illness has 48 state chapters. NAMI Colorado works to provide support groups to family members or individuals struggling with mental illness.
“We have peer-to-peer, so kind of a one-on-one that someone living in recovery is helping another individual who’s trying to get on that journey toward recovery or if it’s a family member, they have the support group,” said Merenstein.
9-8-8 calls or texts will be routed to Colorado’s local lifeline call center, Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners, RMCP. Bev Marquez, CEO of RMCP, said the country realized the importance of having this shortened hotline.
There is a catch, though – the system’s geolocation services will not be completely up-to-date until summer of 2023. That means if you have an out-of-state area code on your cell phone, 988 will route you to help in that state.
“Although less than two percent of calls to the existing statewide crisis line result in deploying in-person care, like mobile crisis teams, ensuring all callers have access to local care is crucial,” said Kelly Bowman, 988 Enterprise & Crisis Line Program Manager.
Using the original number, 1-844-493-8255, or texting TALK to 38255 will get you the help you need.
Heather Littleton, Director of Research Operations at Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience said the pandemic caused an increase in crises for young girls.
“We did see some trends, for example, with adolescent girls being more likely to be in crisis and having more mental health difficulties,” said Littleton. “And the pandemic may have amplified some of those trends that were already occurring.”
9-8-8 serves as a shortened number people can easily remember when needing help or support.
“I think one thing that’s nice about 9-8-8 is that of course it’s an easy number to remember,” said Littleton. “So instead of having to remember a ten digit number, the idea is that you have a three digit number.”
Another goal of 9-8-8 is to provide support for the immediate support for the caller.
“I hope that it can help with the stigma about getting help and knowing that even if the problem feels this big, we will value it at this big,” said Marquez. “It’s possible that a phone call or a text can at least make a difference in knowing what would your next step be?”
Previously, RMCP was a Denver based call center.
“We prior to now have been a Denver based call center, recruiting Denver, based training in Denver, working in Denver, and we have become a statewide employer,” said Marquez. “So, we are casting a broader net.”
Marquez discussed the training program for call specialists which takes more than three weeks.
“It takes three full time weeks of training and then a shadow week and a testing out period for our team members,” said Marquez. “Whether they are bachelor’s level credentialed or master’s level. And what we find is that much of our training is not something that they’re going to get in a degree program.”
RMCP is currently hiring remote and in-person call center specialist positions for Lifeline. Click here for hiring information.