New 988 Suicide Prevention and Crisis Hotline receiving more calls

Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, which takes Wisconsin's 988 calls, received more than 3 times the usual call volume to its crisis hotline
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 3:02 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Thousands of calls within the first month, and a number of new calls.

That’s the response received statewide from a new universal suicide prevention hotline launched last month.

In the works for two years, establishing a new nationwide suicide prevention and crisis hotline was all about simplicity.

“It was really about making sure that people could easily access the support they needed in those emotional crisis,” says Shelly Missall, Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin Program Manager.

And the key to simplicity, getting rid of the old ten digit hotline number and replacing it with just three numbers: 988.

“That 10 digit number, I mean come on, when we’re in crisis figuring anything out, thinking through anything is tough enough being able to find that 10 digit number and then dial that 10 digit number and get connected can be a challenge, so much like 911 is a very easy access for people who are experiencing a crisis, 988 is that solution for people with emotional distress and emotional crisis,” says Missall.

Missall says last year, Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, which answers all Wisconsin hotline calls, averaged around 1,100 calls a month.

Since the transition to the new hotline, calls have soared to around 4,500 a month, including many first time callers.

“For us prevention starts way before we get to those imminent situations, so we are open to talking to anybody about what’s going on in their lives and helping them through whatever their personal crisis is or just whatever they need to talk about,” explains Missall.

Of the calls coming in, Missall estimates around 30 percent pertain to someone having suicidal thoughts.

“Most of the calls are people who are just having their own personal crisis, they having financial issues, job issues, relationship issues and difficulty managing their mental health, and so they just need somebody to talk to about whatever is going on right now,” says Missall.

Wisconsin went from 1,100 crisis calls a month to 4,500 when the 988 national lifeline began