HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the state of Alabama. 

Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, Inc. (HEMSI) is reporting a major increase in calls related to the new 988 suicide hotline as the suicide death rate in Alabama hovers above the national average. 

HEMSI is reporting that they received over 1700 calls between January and June. But between July and August after the rollout of the 988 hotline, they received nearly 500 calls related to suicide and suicide attempts.  

UAB Children’s Hospital reports that mental health challenges have been an overwhelming factor. Especially after two years of COVID-related isolation. Don Webster, a HEMSI spokesperson, told News 19 that suicide deaths and attempts are on the rise. 

“Now we’ve got inflation or is it financially driven so, there’s a lot of factors that fit into that,” said Webster. 

The switch to 988 has increased calls for help. Wellstone of Alabama is reporting that calls to the new suicide hotline have tripled in the past month and age has not been a factor. 

“Yes, it is alarming but, in a way, though I’m really happy that we’re able to do this for individuals,” said Terra Barley, 988 Suicide Hotline Coordinator for Wellstone. 

Barley’s main job is to make sure that folks who are in a crisis receive the services that they need to prevent the clutches of an unstable environment. 

“One of the things that our state has done is have expanded access of those calls coming into the state and so within the regions, there is a crisis center excepting those calls,” said Barley. “That really gives those individuals the opportunity to talk to people that are in their state to get help.”

The CDC reports that suicide is the leading cause of death for people ages 18 and 24 and the second leading cause of death for people between 10 and 34 years old.  

“It’s very alarming because you don’t realize how many people are struggling or how many people need someone to talk to, or how access the many resources in the community,” said Barley. “It is very alarming that people are feeling hopeless at that they want to end their life.”

The 988 hotline is available 24/7 and you can call or text the number if you need help with mental health issues. 

Wellstone says the line connects callers to crisis counseling, resources, and referrals, and in some cases, mobile crisis units may be dispatched. You can also call if you are concerned about a loved one and need resources.