Crisis calls in SC up in year since launch of 988 lifeline

They’re among the millions of Americans who have sought help in a time of crisis during that year.
Published: Jul. 17, 2023 at 7:06 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 17, 2023 at 7:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Tens of thousands of South Carolinians have reached out to the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline since it launched one year ago Sunday.

They’re among the millions of Americans who have sought help in a time of crisis during that year.

South Carolina has seen a significant uptick in calls to the national crisis helpline since 988 launched, but the state also now has more resources to get callers the help they need.

“Having three numbers makes it more accessible to people,” Jessica Barnes, program manager for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health’s Office of Suicide Prevention, said.

The year before 988 launched, 30,440 calls from South Carolina area codes came into the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, when it had a 10-digit phone number.

In the last year since that switched to 988, the number of calls jumped up to 38,528, which does not include people who reached out through text or chat.

“This is also helping open the door for continuing to support other parts of 988 crisis care continuum, not just the call number,” Barnes said.

Until last month, just one call center in South Carolina was taking these calls, Mental Health America of Greenville County. But a second location opened June 1, at the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center.

The next step for the Charleston location is to expand to answer calls 24/7 as they onboard new staff.

Since that center opened, the answer rate for calls from South Carolina area codes being answered by someone in South Carolina has gone up too, from 67% in May to 74% in June.

If someone in South Carolina can’t get a call, it will be routed to a national backup call center in another state, which has access to help and resource information.

But Barnes said there are benefits to South Carolina calls being answered by someone here.

“We know our resources. We know the different access to care that we have across South Carolina,” Barnes said. “Other national backup centers can identify some of those things, but I think it can add another level of understanding when you are from and answering for a particular area that you are familiar with.”

Starting with the new state budget that went into effect July 1, South Carolina’s 988 call centers will receive recurring dollars to fund their work, meaning they will have consistent funding.

“That’s what we needed, something to have to know that, OK, we have these recurring monies coming in, and that’s going to help further support our crisis resources in South Carolina,” Barnes said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, help is available 24/7.

You can call or text the suicide and crisis lifeline at 9-8-8 or chat online at