WMBF Investigates digs into new national lifeline number starting July 16
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – In less than two weeks there will be a new national suicide prevention hotline: 988.
Although 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is not going away, the change should result in greater call volume.
In South Carolina, there is only one call center that answers calls, as more than 100 people call Mental Health America of Greenville County each day.
Calls range from people struggling with a mental health crisis to those having suicidal thoughts and others who just need someone to talk to.
“What we know for sure is that listening is important. We all have enough people in our lives telling us what to do, how we should solve problems, but our tool is really about listening and empowering people to make the choices and decisions that they can without judgment,” said Jennifer Piver, executive director of Mental Health America of Greenville County.
But what happens when there are more calls than people to answer?
Piver says there are currently 52 workstations with phones between his office and a satellite office in Greer.
Only three to six people cover these phones every day.
“At the highest…yes, six.” Every once in a while we have eight to train with,” Piver said.
With the shift of the National Suicide Hotline to 988, Mental Health America expects the number of calls to increase dramatically, eventually reaching four to eight times the number of daily calls to health centers. calls across the country.
“It’s just easier to remember. If I broke my femur, the biggest bone in my body, and you said Dennis, give me directions to your house, it’s a simple task, but I probably couldn’t do it, because I’m in so much pain. The same goes for someone in a mental health crisis. It sounds simple, but you probably couldn’t do it,” said Dennis Gillan, executive director of the Half a Sorrow Foundation.
He started the foundation in 2020, recognizing the need that exists throughout South Carolina.
He travels across the state talking about his brothers, who both died by suicide.
“I have two brothers I need to talk about. My brother Mark and my brother Matthew. So it’s an issue close to my heart,” Gillan said. “But the number zero, I don’t care what your skin color is, what your religion is, what your demographics are, zero would be a big number, and we could dream.”
But Matthew and Mark show that zero is not reality.
In 2019, Horry County recorded 51 suicides. In 2020, DHEC data shows that number has risen to 64.
Specifically in Horry County, WMBF Investigates learned that men commit suicide five times more often than women.
“There are two types of people in the world, those who have suicidal thoughts and liars,” said Pastor Greg Van Dyke of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Pawley’s Island.
Van Dyke first heard this in a psychology class he took in college. It has remained with him ever since.
“Suicide is like addiction,” he said. “We like to stay away and feel like this could never happen to me, to my family, to those I love.”
Although Van Dyke had no clinical training, he incorporated suicide prevention into his congregation. He thinks the new hotline number is needed, but he also knows the Grand Strand needs more resources.
“It’s not just any type of population, it’s this whole ocean of human beings, this whole ocean of human beings and if we could just be lifesavers then I think we could save lives “, said Van Dyke.
Save lives. That’s what less than half a dozen people do every day in Greenville. They answer calls for the Upstate, Midlands, Lowcountry, Grand Stand and Pee Dee.
But is it enough?
“I hope to see that we have sustainable funding going forward,” Piver said. “That we can spend all of our time doing the best we can for every caller, chat and text, with well-trained staff and enough staff to ensure 100% of calls are answered in the state.”
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