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New national suicide prevention number could increase calls for help

New national suicide prevention number could increase calls for help
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NAPLES, Fla.  — On July 16, a new three-digit number will connect callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The nationwide network said callers will simply have to dial 9-8-8 when dealing with a mental health crisis and be directly connected to a trained counselor.

Answering calls for help is something Shaina Anderson, the Chief Operating Officer, for the non-profit, Project HELP, said they do on a daily basis.

“We have trained volunteers and staff that answer our helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Anderson.

Anderson said the non-profit has over 30 people, made up of volunteers and staff who she said have been providing suicide prevention resources long before the national lifeline existed.

“We continue to get calls for mental health concerns and suicidal thoughts now that our community has continued to grow the resources thankfully there are all sorts of other options for people to reach out in times of need, help,” said Anderson.

Project HELP is listed on the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalitions website, where their Southwest Florida regional office provides a list of local resources.

The word “local” is a key for the 988 help line, and crucial Anderson said for helping someone through a mental crisis.

“I certainly think that individuals in the community feel more comfortable reaching out to an agency that they know of or have heard about locally and they feel more connected than they know these resources are close to them,” said Anderson.

According to the National Suicide Prevention Line– their calls in Florida have gone up 61% since 2016.

A number Anderson expects to continue to grow.

“Now that the national lifeline is utilizing 9-8-8 to connect callers to a local call center, I think it’s going to be utilized tenfold,” said Anderson.

The traditional 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will still be available, but Anderson said the new 9-8-8 number should make it easier for anyone looking for help.

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