EAST SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — After years of having to remember or look up the cumbersome number 1-800-274-8255, people needing help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can simply dial 988.
When the number formally launches this weekend, local calls will be answered by Contact Community Services in East Syracuse.
The organization fields mostly 411 information calls, but for years has also taken many mental health crisis calls.
Ally Kuhn, a crisis line worker, and mental health counselor takes calls from people needing help every shift.
She said: “I actually just took one this morning. An individual was going through a tough break-up. He was also dealing with some family-related concerns as well. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in terms of staying safe.”
He wasn’t sure he wanted to stay alive.
Kuhn helped him over the phone. “We were able to work together to explore different resources, supports in his life, turn to someone after our phone call, ultimately we guided him to a place where he identified coping skills to use,” she recalled.
Cheryl Giarrusso, who manages the call center, said: “You can be anonymous. Share what’s on your mind. It’s a safe place to talk. We have a great crew, not judgmental, trained to listen, good listeners. It’s a safe place to talk things out.”
Giarrusso expects a 30% increase in calls now that the number is easier to remember. She’s always looking for more counselors to join her team.
The line isn’t only for suicide threats. Other mental health needs can be addressed.
Kuhn said, “I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to use the line. It’s for all different types of crisis situations or somebody who needs that support that they might not otherwise have in their everyday life.”