988 launched nationwide Saturday. Meet the team on the receiving end of the crisis calls. - East Idaho News

988 launched nationwide Saturday. Meet the team on the receiving end of the crisis calls.

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BOISE (KIVI) — Reaching out for help during a mental health crisis is now as easy as dialing three numbers, but who exactly do you end up talking to?

With 988, the new mental health emergency crisis line, getting help is a lot simpler and when you call, you get connected with trained personnel like Christian Garcia.

“There’s a lot of lives that could be saved by reaching out,” Garcia said. “On a day-to-day basis, it’s really hanging out in the phone room, waiting in the queue to get your calls and then answer calls, helping people.”

Garcia said the job is tough, but rewarding being able to help people on the other end of the phone during their hardest moments.

“It can be hard when you have a 12-year-old who is suicidal and doesn’t even know what’s going on,” Garcia said. “Sometimes you won’t even do anything it will be a normal call where you’re just listening to someone, talk about their problems. Most of the time you feel good helping people. It’s really rewarding.”

When you call the hotline, you dictate how the call goes. Garcia said sometimes he will just sit in silence with someone or do breathing exercises, anything to keep you safe.

“One of the big things we do is safety planning and getting people to just agree to some form of a plan for the night to just stay safe for the night,” he said. “Then you’ll have someone say, ‘Thank you. You saved my life tonight.’ Something like that and it can be really rewarding.”

One goal of 988 is to reduce the stigma of reaching out for help.

“This is a big step forward in the improvement of our behavioral health crisis care continuum in the state,” said Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “988 is easy to remember and will help Idahoans in crisis get connected to compassionate, accessible care and support.”

All calls made using an Idaho area code to 988 will go to a central hub in Washington, D.C., and routed to the Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline.

“With this new system, this 988 system, I think that hopefully, people that may not have thought to reach out and thought that suicide was their only option will reach out,” Garcia said.

If you are someone you know needs help, call 988. Idaho’s crisis line is open 24/7. Click here for more information.