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SCDE Launches Partnership to Sustain Suicide Prevention Hotline

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The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) has partnered with Mental Health America of Greenville County (MHAGC) to sustain the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as both organizations work to combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child wellbeing. 

“Our students have and continue to face unprecedented challenges in their academic and home lives,” said State Superintendent Molly Spearman. “We encourage all students who are struggling to cope with loss and adversity to reach out and seek support. This hotline provides a great service that is being utilized more than ever. This funding will ensure it remains active now and into the future, allowing students an avenue to secure the services they need to be successful in life and in school.”

In 2019 through a two-year capacity-building grant offered by Vibrant Emotional Health and in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, MHAGC began serving the entire state of South Carolina with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The grant ended in September 2021, and the South Carolina Department of Education has provided $250,000 in gap funding to preserve the hotline until additional funding from grants are secured in 2022.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, 7-day a week confidential hotline, chat, and texting service that offers a nonjudgmental sounding board for people to talk about life’s struggles and offer a listening ear and to provide crisis intervention. Students can call 800-273-8255 or text 864-77-TEENS (83367) and get connected with crisis intervention specialists and local resources.

As of October 2021, MHAGC reported youth aged 7 to 19 made a total of 2,891 calls, texts and other messages to the hotline, making 2021 the year with the highest call volumes for the age group. The top two primary issues were suicide and family relationships.

“Our youth are struggling more than ever,” said Jennifer Piver, MHAGC Executive Director. “We see that in the calls where 46% of the youth are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Since school started this year we have intervened in 45 suicide attempts, the youngest was 7. Currently, our SC Lifeline does not have sustainable funding and we are incredibly grateful that Molly Spearman heard this need and the SC Department of Education granted this funding so that the calls from our youth are answered in SC.”

MHAGC is also launching the new 988 number in July 2022. Like 911, 988 will serve as a nationwide calling code and easy to remember number that offers support for emotional and suicidal crisis. The number will also be added to student ID badges.

For more information about MHAGC and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, please visit https://www.mhagc.org/.

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