New 988 National Suicide and Crisis Support Line Connects Callers to Local Area Assistance

By Jeremy Coumbes on July 21, 2022 at 3:42pm

People struggling with suicidal thoughts or going through a mental health crisis in West Central Illinois can now not only take advantage of the new 988 Crisis Lifeline, but it will also connect them to assistance that is local.

The new national crisis support line launched on Saturday. Memorial Behavioral Health, which has taken calls for the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Lifeline for many years, will be taking calls for the new 988 number. The behavioral and mental health agency is one of six certified lifeline centers in Illinois.

Dianna Knaebe, President of Memorial Behavioral Heath says she hopes that more people will recognize, and use, the new easy to remember three-digit hotline.

Part of the marketing, and planning, and outreach with this is you don’t have to be suicidal to call this line. For individuals who may not know how to access mental health, not sure if they should reach out and access services, want to talk with someone about that, or who may actually feel suicidal. And or family or caretakers or support people who are concerned about someone that they love and support and may be afraid that person may be in trouble and wanting to talk with someone about what that means.

Knaebe says, unlike 911, the new 988 crisis number will connect callers with trained counselors who can talk directly with the person who is calling and help deescalate the situation, and or provide resources and options for the caller.

Memorial Behavioral Health also has a Mobile Crisis Response Team, including at the Jacksonville location, who can respond to wherever the caller is should they need immediate help.

Knaebe says the most recent data on suicide between 2000 and 2020 shows that suicide rates, in general, were up over 30%. Because of that, she says she feels the new number comes at a very crucial time when so many are affected by anxiety and or depression.

I think this gives people a chance to think about I only have three numbers to remember. We will be seeing I think quite a bit more information, we’ve got folks out and about talking about this. So hopefully we can decrease the stigma around accessing services.

We want to make sure that when people need that service they can make that connection to it, rather than getting to the point where they might feel like taking their life is the only option they have. We certainly don’t want people to get to that point.”

Knaebe says anyone who is feeling the effects of anxiety or depression, or perhaps even just suspect they may be, shouldn’t wait to call the free 988 number. “I’d say as early as possible, even if you’re not feeling suicidal. But you’re feeling strange, you’re feeling not like yourself, maybe you’re not eating, not sleeping, not interested in anything anymore, and not sure what’s going on.

I say reach out, it’s a free confidential service. It’s not going to hurt to reach out and find out if you might benefit from services in the community, or wherever services are that you can access on your own.”

Knaebe says decreasing the stigma and making it easier for people to ask for help goes hand in hand with the realization that most mental health issues are brain issues that can be helped with therapy or medicine or sometimes a combination of both.

She says calling 988 can also be a resource for someone who is concerned about a loved one, being it a family member, friend or anyone who they see is struggling with things like anxiety or depression, and what to know if they should be concerned and if so, how they can help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and or having suicidal thoughts, call the National Crisis Support line by dialing 988 to speak with someone in your area who can help.