EAST SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV) – After years of having to remember or search for the cumbersome number 1-800-274-8255, people in need of help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can simply dial 988 .
When the number officially launches this weekend, local calls will be answered by Contact Community Services in East Syracuse.
The organization primarily responds to 411 information calls, but for years has also fielded numerous 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 difficult breakup. He also took care of some family issues. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do to stay 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 some coping skills to use,” she remembers.
Cheryl Giarrusso, who runs the call center, said: “You can be anonymous. Share whatever comes to your mind. It’s a safe place to talk. We have a great team, non-judgmental, trained to listen, good listeners. It’s a safe place to talk things over.
Giarrusso expects a 30% increase in calls now that the number is easier to remember. She is always looking for new advisors to join her team.
The line isn’t just for suicide threats. Other mental health needs can be met.
Kuhn said, “I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to use the line. It’s for all types of crisis situations or for someone who needs that support they might not otherwise have in their daily life.