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Supporting Mental Health in Northeast FL: The 988 Crisis Lifeline

October 27, 2023

By Elizabeth Findley, 988 director, United Way of Northeast Florida




United Way of Northeast Florida responds to approximately 30-50 calls daily from individuals experiencing emotional distress or suicidal ideation, averaging 1,200 calls monthly. Since July 2022, the launch of the three-digit 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has resulted in a 50%-250% yearly increase in crisis call volume.

Addressing Mental Health Challenges
For years, United Way has been the primary entry point for individuals in its nine-county catchment area experiencing emotional distress or suicidal ideation. However, only recently did the mental health community establish a formalized response system to address these calls.

Leading the Change
Before the launch of the 988 three-digit revamp of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Melanie Patz, the current President and CEO of United Way, led the 988 task force in her previous role at Baptist Health. This group, comprising mental health experts, partners, law enforcement, and medical community members, met for two years before the official launch. Their thoughtfulness and collaboration have made Northeast Florida a model for its collaborative system of care.

Immediate Support for Mental Health Concerns
The need for a trauma-informed and immediate response to mental health is higher than ever. Whether experiencing emotional distress, suicidal ideation, substance use concerns, or needing support for a family member’s mental health, individuals are encouraged to call 988. United Way’s trained crisis specialists are available 24/7 to provide care and support.

Recognizing Warning Signs
As signs of mental health and suicidal ideation increase, it’s crucial to check on loved ones. Recognizing the warning signs is vital; if anyone observes them, they are urged to call 988 for support.

Suicide Warning Signs
(Source: SAMHSA, 2023)

  • Talking about or making plans for suicide
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

Extending a Helping Hand
United Way of Northeast Florida and the 988 team feel honored to be a place of hope and support for the community. A crisis specialist recently received feedback from an individual who called the 988 Lifeline, expressing gratitude for the life-saving support. To access support, dial 988 today.

Looking for ways you can support 988 here in Northeast Florida? Email Patrick Moran, our vice president of philanthropy, at patrickm@nulluwnefl.org.