By Elizabeth Findley, 988 director, United Way of Northeast Florida
Every day, United Way of Northeast Florida receives approximately 30-50 calls from individuals experiencing emotional distress or suicidal ideation. This averages approximately 1,200 calls a month. Since July 2022 and the inception of the three-digit 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, United Way has experienced anywhere from a 50%-250% increase in crisis call volume year over year.
While United Way has served for years as the entry point for those experiencing emotional distress or suicidal ideation in its nine-county catchment area, it wasn’t until recently that the mental health community has come together to establish a formalized system of response to these calls.
Prior to the launch of the 988 three-digit revamp of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, current President and CEO of United Way, Melanie Patz, led the 988 taskforce in her previous role at Baptist Health. This taskforce was comprised of mental health experts, mental health partners, law enforcement and members of the medical community who met ongoing for two years prior to the official launch. The thoughtfulness and collaboration of the taskforce has greatly contributed to Northeast Florida being a model in the state for its collaborative system of care. Thanks to committed community mental health partners, the 988 taskforce, now led by Dr. Terrie Andrews of Baptist Health, continues to meet monthly in order to discuss Northeast Florida’s response to mental health.
The need for a trauma-informed and immediate response to mental health is higher than ever. If you are experiencing emotional distress, suicidal ideation, substance use concerns or need emotional support in meeting a family member’s mental health needs, please call 988. When calling 988, you will be connected to one of United Way’s 11 trained crisis specialists who are available 24/7 to address any of the beforementioned concerns. We want you to know what you are experiencing matters and you are worthy of care and support.
Also, as we see signs of mental health and suicidal ideation increasing, please check on your loved ones. Everyone can play a role in suicide prevention by knowing the warning signs and knowing where to go to access support. If you observe the following suicide warning signs, please call 988 so we can support you.
Suicide Warning Signs
(Source: SAMHSA, 2023)
United Way of Northeast Florida and our 988 team feel honored to be a place of hope and support for our community. Recently, one of our crisis specialists received feedback from an individual who called into the 988 Lifeline. The caller stated: “You guys saved my life. I didn’t have any hope that things would get better, but I feel like they can now. Thank you.”
Let us be here for you; you are not alone. Dial 988 today.
Looking for ways you can support 988 here in Northeast Florida? Email Patrick Moran, our vice president of philanthropy, at email@example.com.
Miller Electric contributes $1 million to United Way to advance race, equity and social justice in Northeast Florida