By Courtney Cole, WBZ-TV
FRAMINGHAM - If you're having a mental health emergency, public health officials are trying to make sure you have a safe, easily accessible space to get help. And it comes in the form of three digits: 9-8-8.
The new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number rolled out over the weekend. WBZ's Courtney Cole spoke to Eileen Davis, the Vice President of Mass 211 and the director of one of our local call centers, Call2Talk in Framingham, to learn how they plan to handle the anticipated increase in calls.
"A typical day at Call2Talk has now forever changed since Saturday," Davis told Cole on Monday afternoon.
Davis described it as a hybrid center with volunteers and competent call takers that are all trained to optimally take calls from those who are struggling emotionally and are seeking emotional support.
"Typically, we were getting about--maybe 200, 250 calls a day. Whereas this weekend, it was close to 400 every day!" Davis exclaimed.
Davis told Cole it took six to eight months to prepare for the launch, and all of the preparation paid off because their call center staff was prepared.
"We have now, about five to eight at a time. We're going to probably have close to 10-to-12 to 15 at a time– as we continue to ramp up," Davis said.
In contrast, less than half of the public officials– that helped with the roll out of the new 9-8-8 service– felt confident that their areas were prepared for this, in terms of financing, staffing, or infrastructure. This is according to a survey from the Rand Corporation. According to their website, the non-profit is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous.
Cole checked the website of some of our local call centers and learned they are actively looking for help.
On the Family Services of Merrimack Valley website, they have a listing for a Crisis Line Supervisor with a $3,000 sign-up bonus.
Samaritans on Cape Cod and The Islands, Samaritans South Coast and Samaritans in Boston, collectively have at least 11 open positions related to their call center.
"What takes the time is the training, the amount of training that it takes and to mentor someone to be prepared. Because you don't want to have someone on before they are prepared, because we don't know what they're going to get," Davis explained.
Preparation to take the phone call that will change the life of the person on the other end of the line.
"It's a safe place to turn to when maybe you feel you don't have anyone. Sometimes people have family and friends and colleagues, but they don't want to burden them either. Or, they are afraid to be honest with them or what might happen or what people might think of them," said Davis.
Davis told Cole Call2Talk in Framingham opened in December 2013. Although the center is the youngest in the state, she told WBZ they have grown to become the biggest center in Massachusetts.
To find the closest call center to you, visit Mass.gov/988.