BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)– A new suicide and crisis hotline officially launched over the weekend.
Local leaders said this is a major step forward in addressing mental health.

The hotline is three numbers, 9-8-8, an easy to remember line that could save a life.

“I’m super excited. I didn’t think I’d live to see something like this in my lifetime,” stated Peer Specialist and Set Free Indeed Executive Director Tonja Myles.

Myles has always shared her mental health journey. Her powerful story made its way to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, She said the new 9-8-8 hotline, a labor of love, has now come to life.

“We hear a lot of people say a lot of times, you know, ‘we saw the signs. We saw someone struggling. We just didn’t know what to do.’ Well, you know what? 9-8-8 will help that,'” she stated.

State Office of Behavioral Health Assistant Secretary Karen Stubbs said she’s already seen a spike in calls since the hotline launched.

“So we were able to compare last weekend with this weekend when 9-8-8 went live and they alone saw approximately a 30% increase in this weekend,” she stated.

9-8-8 calls are routed from a national call center to local centers based on area codes. A very simple and almost instant process.

“To make it easier to remember in a crisis to normalize it, much like people are very comfortable with 911 and to hopefully reduce the stigma which will in turn encourage more people to reach out for help,” said Stubbs.

Myles said this could help drive traffic from 911 operators, to instead, the crisis hotline.

“I’ve had my own crises where, you know, 911 had to be called out. And, you know, I’m grateful that that went well for me. But a lot of times it doesn’t for a lot of people because of the trauma and everything. But this way it’s clear,” she explained.

They are open 24/ 7, and those on the line are highly qualified professionals, trained for this purpose. After a crisis and with the callers consent you could also get a call back for a wellness check up.

“They’re there for anything, from just needing to talk to someone who might be down, someone who’s calling on behalf of a friend or family member and is quite sure what to do to someone who is having active thoughts of suicide and isn’t quite sure what to do next,” Stubbs explained.

They can also help provide local resources and refer you to the right agencies.

“Simultaneously, the Department of Health has rolled out, in the Medicaid population, some crisis mobile teams, and we have some crisis walk in centers. Baton Rouge is very fortunate. We have one of the first here with the Bridge City Center for Hope,” stated Stubbs.

If you or a loved one, is experiencing a crisis, you can call the hotline 24/7, again, that number is 9-8-8.