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211 & Suicide Prevention

Blog Author: Dr. Jenn Carson, DSW

At 211, we celebrate the recent launch of 988 this summer. No one knows the power of a unique 3-digit more than the 211 Family! Since the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline became the Crisis and Suicide Lifeline and 1-800-273-TALK transitioned to 988 on July 16, 2022, contacts have increased at the 200 Lifeline network call centers while 211 contact centers remain as busy as ever.

Working in tandem, 211 and 988 have a powerful opportunity to reduce the 10th leading cause of death, suicide and help build lives worth living --every month---not just during Suicide Prevention Month in September or Mental Health Awareness Month in May. As a supervisor at a Blended 211 Call Center with a 54-year-old local crisis line and a 211 Contact Center, I have been asked how my crisis counselors and community specialist work together. I have a fictitious but realistic vignette to share with you.

When a Spanish-Speaking woman calls our crisis line during a panic attack, our Bilingual Crisis Worker, who is a social work intern, provides de-escalation, suicide assessment, and emotional support. The crisis counselor then conducts a warm transfer to an AIRS Certified Bilingual Community Specialist because caller is parked in front of an abandoned department store with four sleeping children in the back seat. The bilingual community resource specialist at 211 listens, assesses, and connects the family to immediate local resources.

Like a Fire Fighter and an EMT working together or a School Nurse and School Counselor working together, the Crisis Worker and the Community Resource Specialist reduced isolation, increased safety, and provided crisis help. Working in tandem, they helped build a suicide safer community. The Crisis Continuum of Care is built on somewhere to call, somewhere to go, and someone to come to you. Working together, we can build the foundation of the Crisis Continuum of Care: somewhere to call. Together we can provide help and hope, increase safety, build lives worth living and reduce suicide.

Dr. Jenn Carson is the Crisis Line Supervisor at Inland SoCal Crisis and Suicide Helpline, a project of Inland SoCal United Way and Inland SoCal 211+. She is also a board member at the American Association of Suicidology and a childhood suicide attempt survivor.