Oct. 10 is World Mental Health day and a good time to remind others of the existence of 988 in Colorado.
988 is the new 3-digit number to call or text with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners which manages the call response program in Colorado wants to expand its mission to support anyone experiencing mental health distress.
Crisis Specialist Erik Jacobsen said he looks forward to the day 988 is known everywhere and that Coloradans will have no qualms about calling when they need support.
"Crisis lines in general are not very well understood," he said. "There's rumors and stigmas and people think we're 911. We are not."
Jacobsen and his colleagues believe each individual self-defines what they consider a crisis. It could be stress brought on by a lost job, divorce, death in the family, a natural disaster, or suicidal ideation.
He said, "I don't know when you're gonna hit a point where you need support, you do. And at that point you should call 988 and it's hopefully easy to remember."
Calling 988, Jacobsen says, doesn't mean that you're broken or that the weight of negative feelings will never go away.
"Honestly sharing how you're actually doing, that has a tremendous preventative effect when it comes to anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation. We want to get out in front of this stuff. Versus letting things fester," he said.
More than one in three Coloradans have out of state cell numbers and 988 automatically routes calls to the state associated with callers' area codes.
Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners CEO Bev Marquez says a local response is important in crisis situations but changing the routing issue will take time and involve working with federal regulators. "There is a fear that if that geographic information is available that will have folks feel less comfortable in confidentiality and anonymity."
The 988 crisis call center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by crisis specialists who listen and refer callers to appropriate care. Of 400,000 calls a year, less than two percent are referred to law enforcement.
Specialist Erik Jacobsen says it's a privilege to listen as people share the weight of their feelings. "That's why I'm involved in this work because the impact you can have by simply just sitting alongside somebody in what it is they're experiencing can alter the trajectory of their life."
To reach local support anywhere in Colorado you can always use the original Lifeline crisis line 844-493-8255.
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