Official: Crisis calls in Georgia spike after launch of 988 lifeline

988 is the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. (Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez)

Editor’s note: The subject of suicide is discussed in this interview.

Expecting mother Ruth Naomi Escamilla says her doctor saved her life when she dialed 988.

“I wasn’t familiar with 988 at that point in my life,” Escamilla said. “My pregnancy put me at a brutal point in my life.”

She said she knew something was wrong with her mental health, but Escamilla said she had lived all her life with stigma, oppression and being ashamed about who she was. She said she didn’t want to live.

“That call changed my life,” said Escamilla, who now works as a peer mentor and offers the same support she received after calling 988.

July 2023 marks one year since 988 became the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. As awareness grew, the Georgia Department of Behavior Health and Developmental Disabilities experienced a 12% spike in their call volume.

“That tells me there are a lot of Georgians that need help,” said DBHDD Commissioner Kevin Tanner.

Tanner and Escamilla were guests on Monday’s edition of “Closer Look with Rose Scott” along with Wendy Tiegreen, the Director of the Office of Medicaid Coordination and Health System Innovation,

They agreed that there’s more work to be done to make people aware of the 988 lifeline. Tanner said there’s also a need to get more help and resources in Georgia’s rural areas, where more people per capita have made crisis calls.

Tanner added that in the second year of 988, they’re working to improve their infrastructure and workforce to provide easier access to mental health resources. Tanner said the state is investing millions of dollars.