Suicide hotline to change to 988; what it means for dialing in coastal Georgia

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannahians and others with 912 area codes throughout coastal Georgia will have to start dialing 10-digit numbers this year.

The transition is to make way for a new 988 number that will replace the current Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Eighty-two area codes around the country use 988 for the first three numbers of some seven-digit phone numbers, which is why the Federal Communications Commission says people will have to start dialing 10-digit numbers when they make calls.

Otherwise phones won’t recognize when someone is trying to reach the 988 suicide hotline.

For example, a person with a 912 number will have to dial their area code, or the call won’t go through. The changes will go into effect on October 24, 2021.

Officials say because the Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be a shorter number, it”ll be easier for someone to dial when they’re upset and possibly not thinking clearly.

Gaan Akers, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Education Manager at Hillside, says when someone is on the verge of suicide or having thoughts of hurting themselves, every minute matters.

She says this is why most therapists tell their clients in case of an emergency, dial 911.

“That is such a loaded thing for a lot of people because 911 doesn’t always mean mental health support,” said Akers.

That’s why the Suicide Prevention Lifeline exists, to give special care to someone in mental distress.

She says changing the number to 988 may seem like a small shift, but it could save thousands of lives.

“The quick intervention, the quick support you know when you talk about every single minute matters,” said Akers, “that is the thing that can come in and intervene in that moment and at the very minimum remind them that this is temporary.”

Akers says a lot of suicidal people don’t actually want to die — they want relief from their emotional pain.

She say’s that’s why early intervention and direct avenues of support make all the difference.

“Having something that is different, that is dedicated to a person who is in emotional crisis is going to be a really great way to save lives,” said Akers.

Akers added that pandemic stress has a lot more people reaching out for support. If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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