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'We can manage any increased volume': Rural Georgia counties using nationwide 988 crisis line

Rural south Georgians reached out at a higher rate than urban counties.

DUBLIN, Ga. — The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities reported that in the first 45 days of the 988 rollout, 37,561 calls, texts, and chats were received. Currently, the Peach State already has its own crisis line people can call. Monica Johnson is the director for the Division of Behavioral Health. She says the state is already ahead of other states in crisis access.

"Our focus is on making sure we can manage any increased volume, but then, making sure the second part of 988 is that if someone is in need of a rapid response, we already had in Georgia a statewide local crisis response system," Johnson said.

Data shows men have called the new crisis line more than women. Rural southwest Georgians reached out for support at a higher rate than urban counties like Fulton or Cobb. Connie Smith is trained to handle someone in crisis through Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR). Smith is an instructor for QPR and work at the Community Service Board for Middle Georgia (CSB). They also have resources for those in crisis. One of them is the Voices of Hope Suicide Prevention Coalition. They provide educational resources for individuals families looking for support. They service rural areas like Wilcox, Pulaski, and Treutlen counties. Smith says she wants to reduce the stigma around calling for help. 

"I want people to be able to feel comfortable sharing the number, and you know with the 988 number, it's an easy number to remember," Smith said.

Smith lost her brother to suicide and has had calls with children's and teens who are going through a suicidal crisis. She says the calls are not easy but it's her job to make sure they do not harm themselves.

"If someone tells you, 'Yes, I am thinking about killing myself,' you try to persuade them to get that help," Smith said.

Here are a list of sources if you or someone you know is in need of help:

1. Georgia Crisis & Access Line

2. 988 Suicide and Crisis Line

3. Georgia 988 Suicide and Crisis Line

4. Community Service Board of Middle Georgia

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