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‘The 911 of mental healthcare’: New mental health crisis hotline takes off across Mississippi

Photo courtesy of 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline/Facebook.

Mississippi’s new mental health crisis hotline has begun to take off across the state after shortening the previous lengthy phone number to only three digits.

Now, the new number offers a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week mental health crisis hotline to residents throughout the Magnolia State.

Dr. Katherine Pannel with the Right Track Medical Group explained that anyone experiencing an emergency relating to mental health and wishing to speak to a counselor can simply pick up the phone and dial 988.

“Before 988, it was a long number which was just a suicide hotline, but they converted it to 988 in 2020 and it was implemented in 2022 of this year,” Pannel stated. “It’s basically the 911 of mental healthcare.”

Every time the hotline number is dialed, the phone calls are sent to two call centers in Mississippi that can provide further assistance to each individual if needed. The hotline can also be contacted through text message or on its website.

According to Pannel, the hotline’s call centers resolve 80 percent of the crises that are the causes of the calls.

“I think when people know that if they call 988, they won’t be taken to jail,” Pannel said. “I think they know this will actually be someone trained in mental health and will be more encouraging to know they will come out and get them the resources they need rather than take them to jail or the ER.”

Pannel added that although the phone call is not recorded, the caller’s name and address may be required to ensure additional aid can be sent directly to their location.

“I think that we now can see clearly that we’re in a mental health crisis, whether that be primary health like depression and anxiety, but we are also seeing a huge substance abuse crisis,” Pannel said. “I think we are starting to see the beginnings of what can be considered a mental health pandemic, which stems from our COVID pandemic.”

To hear the entire interview, continue listening below.

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