One month into 988; Operator finds purpose from prior crisis

Rebecca Cardenas reports one month later after the mental health '988' was launched how an operator found a purpose from a prior crisis.
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 7:36 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A 988 operator reflects on one month since the launch of the crisis lifeline; for him, the work is personal.

“I’ve been on the other side of the phone,” Greg Bennett said; who knows what it’s like to be in crisis? “About 11 years ago, I was at the lowest I’ve ever been. I had someone reach out to me. I was able to turn things around, and, ever since then, I’ve wanted to give back.”

Bennett would spend the next ten years doing just that – answering to others in crisis on the other end of the suicide prevention hotline.

“There’s a lot of people out there that don’t have support,” he explained. “It’s a great feeling to be able to be that for someone.”

For over a decade, Bennett watched resources for mental health evolve. Most recently, through the lens of the crisis lifeline launch, number 988, he transitioned from the other end of a phone call to the other end of a text.

“People, [who] maybe aren’t comfortable talking on the phone about what’s going on, you know. We see a lot more people reach out that way, but it also can be difficult in determining maybe what level of crisis in because we don’t get to hear the emotions,” Bennett said.

According to the state, there was an immediate spike in calls the week 988 went live. However, call volume has since returned to average levels, at about 700 per week. Bennett said no matter the numbers; someone is there.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel. They can get through it, and they still have the potential for a very long, fulfilling life ahead of them if they can get through this one moment,” he said. “They don’t have to battle anything alone.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, help is out there. For more resources, click here.