SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) –The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number has a new look.
The former ten digit number is now 9-8-8. Cheryl Giarrusso, Division Director of Contact Community Services in Syracuse, is excited about the change.
“The three digit code will be a game changer for people who are in crisis because oftentimes when you’re in that state of mind… you’re not thinking clearly” Giarrusso said.
In anticipation of a higher volume of calls, Contact Community Services has begun hiring more staff to help callers. Giarrusso says they have been preparing for this change for two years. She believes a lack of counselors will be an issue throughout the state. However, the only way to make progress is federal funding.
“It’s federal. It’s SAMHSA which comes through Vibrant which is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which goes to the office of Mental Health of New York State and then comes to the call centers” Giarrusso said.
While Contact Community Services accepts volunteer support to address other concerns; the lifeline is only managed by trained professionals.
Despite the understaffing concerns, there are those who believe that callers should be charged to maintain the call centers. Giarrusso thinks the idea is ridiculous.
“It should be free and anonymous and available 24/7” Giarrusso said.
Even with these concerns, Giarrusso hopes that the number change will help the conversation about mental health become positive.
“Our goal has always been to reduce that stigma.” Giarusso said,”… To make it okay to ask for help, and to let people know that there is a safe place for them to call, to share whatever it is that’s on their minds”.