The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is getting a new number in mid-July. The new three-digit number, 988, will make it easier for people to call for help.
In East Syracuse, workers at the Contact Community Services center respond to those calls. With the number change, they are expecting to see an increase in call volume, so they’re looking to hire more staff.
Nicholas Ristoff has been a crisis line worker at Contact Community Services for the past five months. He says being on the other end of the phone when someone calls is about providing support.
“It can be nerve-wracking, it can. But it’s important for us to remain calm for them to understand we’re here for support and help,” said Ristoff.
They then assess if the individual has any plans to take their own life and try to help mitigate those risks.
“We do have partners in the community that we work with to provide on-site support if needed in the Onondaga and surrounding counties," said Ristoff.
He says they then develop a safety plan with the individuals by coming up with unique coping mechanisms in order to stay safe. Ristoff says changing the National Suicide Hotline number to 988 will make it easier for people in crisis to remember and utilize the service.
“We do expect an increase in call volume when they change it to a three-digit code,” said Ristoff.
On average, Ristoff takes about 50 calls a day. The company is expecting to see about a 30% increase in call volume after the change. More calls means a need for more people to handle the phones, and having the staff to do it will be critical.
“We emphasize self-care here as well, try to make sure everybody is cared for during their shift and after their shift. And taking care of themselves as well to help regulate our nervous systems,” said Ristoff.
Ristoff also attends SUNY Oswego, where he is studying to get his master's degree in order to become a mental health counselor.
“It’s really important for me to give back to the community and to help support people here that are struggling and might need that support more than others," said Ristoff.