Columbia, South Carolina – After the establishment of the national suicide lifeline at 988 in July, there has been a discernible rise in the amount of emergency calls that have been received in the state of South Carolina.
There is only one center in the state that is now answering calls, and that is Mental Health America of Greenville County. However, in addition to calls, they are also answering crisis messages and chats at this location.
Kathy Eckart, director of Crisis Intervention Services at the MHAGC, described the current situation as “busy, chaotic, but in a sense, it’s what we’ve been doing for so many years.”
No longer need to seek up a 10-digit phone number in order to have access to the free service, 988 became operational in the middle of July, allowing people all around the United States to call or text it for assistance if they are experiencing a mental health crisis.
On Wednesday, advocates provided members of the South Carolina Suicide Prevention Coalition with an update of the status of the implementation and discussed the assistance they require from the state in order to keep up with the growing demand.
The number of calls received by Mental Health America of Greenville County has increased by 63% when compared to the same month in the previous year, and someone is able to respond to 75% of the calls that originate in South Carolina.
They never miss a call, but if they are unable to take care of it themselves, a worker from another state will.
However, proponents argue that this is not an ideal situation.
Jennifer Roberts, who works at the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center, speculated that the incident would take place in Phoenix, Arizona. Do you believe that Phoenix, Arizona, is as knowledgeable about the options available in South Carolina as we are? They certainly do not. However, they do possess knowledge concerning it.
At this time, there is only one crisis call center in the state, and it is run by Mental Health America of Greenville County.
However, as a result of the increased number of calls that have been pouring in since the opening of the 988, it has been decided to create another one in Charleston County somewhere around the beginning of 2023.
“We finally found a space, and we’re working on getting that ready for us to go,” Roberts said. He added that the goal is for the Charleston center to be able to answer the other 25% of calls that workers in Greenville are unable to get to, without having to outsource to workers in other states. “We finally found a space,” Roberts said. “We’re working on getting that ready for us to go.”
On Wednesday, advocates for mental health argued that the state should invest more money toward these clinics and suicide prevention in general in order to address the issue moving forward.
According to Bill Lindsey, Executive Director of NAMI South Carolina, “We’ve Started on a Great Foot, but We Really Need to Fund It,” Jennifer was Speaking About How Important It Is To Fund It. “It is absolutely necessary for us to be able to staff those positions, as well as those call centers.”
Eckart stated that her call center is able to accommodate more employees in terms of both capacity and space; however, they do not have the financial resources (in the form of recurring support, as opposed to one-time grants or donations) to do so.
She stated, “I have a lot of resumes that are currently on hold that are just waiting.”
Help is accessible around the clock for you or a friend or family member who could be going through a difficult time mentally.
You can reach the suicide and crisis lifeline by calling or texting the number 988, or you can talk with someone online at 988lifeline.org.
Residents of South Carolina may also contact the Mobile Crisis Team of the Department of Mental Health by dialing 833-364-2274. This is a statewide program that offers on-site emergency mental health screening, assessment, and referral, as needed, seven days a week.