988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline helps thousands struggling with mental health in Ohio

Help is just a phone call away...
Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 8:37 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among kids and young adults in Ohio.

The Ohio School Safety Summit is focusing on on kids and mental health since studies show our kids are struggling.

[ Suicide now the 2nd leading cause of death for Ohio kids, young adults ]

At the summit, Gov. Mike DeWine shared updates on the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, the three-digit phone number for those having a mental health crisis, or those who are simply in need of guidance, to call for help.

All states were mandated to have the 988 lifeline, and there are 19 lifeline centers in Ohio.

One of those are Cuyahoga County, where a total of 30 trained clinicians and counselors work.

Each shift is staffed with four to five people available to answer calls within seconds - 19 seconds is the average in Ohio.

The Cuyahoga County center answers about 180 calls per day, including follow-ups.

Nearly 1,000 calls in Cuyahoga County to the lifeline have been from kids, young adults, or their parents.

Associate Director of Crisis Jane Granzier said, “988 is a vehicle to get people in front of behavioral health providers and crisis clinicians who ideally can triage and say, ‘this can be managed by phone and monitoring and checking back in.’ Sometimes it’s the support we offer to parents about helping to link a child or adolescent that makes all the difference.”

The reasons why kids reach out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline fall across a wide spectrum.

“Kids can be calling themselves talking about depression, a break up, a school stresser, family stress, issues around secrets, prior trauma...” Granzier stated.

When asked if the call center has seen evidence that 988 is working, answered:

“Absolutely, the number of calls - you can look at it from various metrics - but, the number of calls, the increase, the access...” according to Granzier. “We’ll get a better read on it when our workforce gets back to pre-COVID levels. It’s a process, and we just have to do the best we can with what we have right now... and it’s still hard.”

As 19 News has previously reported, staffing throughout the mental health field continues to be a challenge.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline center in Cuyahoga County is considering partnering with Northeast Ohio colleges to help more of their trained clinicians get more advanced degrees in the field.

The state of Ohio also plans to have a larger media campaign to inform more people about the 988 lifeline since it is not yet known to all like 911.