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Call centers expecting big spike when suicide lifeline 988 launches July 16

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is waiting on more funding before hiring call operators.

TAMPA, Fla. — If there's an emergency and you need help, you know what to do, call 911.

That's the same idea behind our country's new suicide prevention lifeline: 988, but call centers are expecting a big spike in call volume come launch day on July 16 and people in crisis might not get an operator right away.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34 and 10th overall in the United States.

Operators at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay take calls 24/7 from people who are contemplating suicide. 988 will now give people a quick, easy-to-remember lifeline when they need it most. 

"It's a suicide and crisis line. It's dedicated to that so we want people to call if they're in that type of a situation," Ken Gibson with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay said.

The infrastructure is already in place from the existing suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-TALK but call centers expect an increased volume of calls in the initial days following the launch on July 16 as well as a long-term increase.

"There’s already increased demand from the past couple years because of the pandemic," Gibson said.

RELATED: New 988 suicide hotline launches in July

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is recruiting more staff to answer calls but it takes the right person and extensive training. Click here to see their job openings.

"The job is not for everybody," Gibson advised. "It's high stress. You're taking crisis call after crisis call."

If you haven't heard of 988 yet, that might be on purpose. Gibson said the big marketing push hasn't come yet as organizers want to first make sure everything is up and running on July 16.

"There is double backup involved," Gibson explained. "It may take some patience. Basically, we answer calls and there’s a local backup to take an overflow of calls."

RELATED: Launching 988, the country's new lifeline and preventing a mental crisis

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