Suicide prevention hotline changes nationwide to 9-8-8, looking for volunteers

NOW: Suicide prevention hotline changes nationwide to 9-8-8, looking for volunteers

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The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is now in effect.

Instead of the 1-800 number that's been around for years, you can simply dial 9-8-8.

The original number is still accessible, but in the moment of a crisis, ten digits can be hard to remember.

The is short and easy to remember in an emergency. People have the option to call or text the number, meeting the needs of teens and young adults who may feel more comfortable with that option.

The number is available for people in need and for people who are concerned about someone.

According to Oaklawn suicide prevention specialist Leslie Weirich, the switch to 9-8-8 has been in the works for a while.

“When you’re in that moment of crisis, you cannot reason your way out,” said Weirich. “You’re not going to dial ten digits. So, I always say, ‘think of 9-8-8 as the 9-1-1 for your brain.’ 9-1-1 for your body, 9-8-8 for your brain.”

The need for help is high, but there’s a low number of volunteers on the other end to pick up.

No matter what, the call will be answered as quickly as possible, but due to the urgency of the call, the person on the other end may be in a different part of the state or in a different state.

This shouldn’t be a problem for most customer service lines, but the suicide prevention lifeline can help callers connect to resources in their area, which can be difficult to do if the person on the other line is in a different state.

Weirich says volunteers are needed and the job is less intimidating with some training.

“Sometimes really what somebody needs is just someone to listen,” said Weirich. "And I always tell everyone, ‘you don’t have to be a licensed clinical therapist to save a life, you have to have a good set of ears, and you have to be a good listener, and you have to have empathy and compassion.”

If you are interested in volunteering or working at a crisis center, you will first have to go through screening and participate in a 2-day training process.

To learn more or for information on volunteering, visit these websites: 988lifeline.org and 988 Jobs

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