More people getting help in Minnesota after 988 suicide hotline change

Minnesota has seen an increase in calls for suicide prevention and crisis support since mid-July.

In July, the country rolled out the new nationwide 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The Minnesota Department of Health wants to highlight the new lifeline during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The lifeline and Minnesota’s four call centers offer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The department said since switching to 988 on July 16, calls have increased by 44 percent, and texts have increased by 250 percent. Minnesota has also seen a 173 percent increase in web chats since January 2022. State officials believe the increase is largely because the number is easier to remember.

Last year, Minnesota received 33,887 calls, 4,099 chats, and 1,306 texts. Health officials said Suicide has been steadily rising in Minnesota for the past 20 years. According to preliminary data, there were 777 suicides in 2021, mirroring trends across the United States.

Many people have had their lives touched by suicide in one way or another. 

As Toni Plante looks at the tattoo on her forearm, she’s reminded of the work she wants to do to bring awareness to suicide prevention. The mom from Minnetonka has a tattoo of a semicolon with the name of her daughter, Ana.

"I read (the tattoo) as: Her story isn't over yet. And we're going to keep fighting for mental health and suicide prevention," Plante said.

But the tattoo won't be the only mark Ana Plante leaves on this world. Her mom wants her story shared far and wide.

"She was a victim of suicide. She was a victim of a brain that turned against her in a system that couldn't help her," Plante said.

Ana's parents did everything they could to help, as their daughter battled depression during her preteen years. But Ana died by suicide in January 2016 at age 15, while her mom was out walking the dogs.

"I was gone for 15 minutes. So people ask me: Was it a surprise?" Plante said. "No, she had tried two other times, but on the other hand, it was a total surprise that she did it that day."

After that day -- Plante set out to make sure no other parents have to feel the pain she felt. She said it starts with resources, including the new 988 lifeline.

"Would it have saved my daughter? I don't know. We'll never know that, but it is a step in the right direction to try to help somebody sometime," she said.

And talking about suicide prevention can save lives. Scott Geiselhart is proof of that. In 2014, the 20-year veteran firefighter from the Fargo area attempted suicide after battling addiction and PTSD.

He had a list of suicide hotlines in front of him but said some went to voicemail. But the final one was the voice of a fellow first responder, who listened.

"I felt like it was a weakness that I was talking about this stuff, but once I started talking about it, I gained the strength and a peace," Geiselhart said.

He said in the last eight years, our society has come a long way with mental health resources, including 988, but there’s more work to be done and conversations to be had.

"Sometimes, we don't want to bother people with our issues or problems and think we're broken beyond repair. But it's not true. How would we feel if someone that we knew and loved didn't reach out when they were hurting?" Geiselhart said.

Geiselhart said he’s so glad he got a second chance in life, and he is now a national motivational speaker. More than 100 people have credited him with keeping them from taking their own lives.

If you are struggling, please talk to someone. Help is available 24/7 if you dial or text 988. You can also text MN to 741741. Veterans can press "1" after dialing 988 to connect directly to the Veterans Crisis Lifeline which serves our nation’s Veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members, and those who support them. For texts, Veterans should continue to text the Veterans Crisis Lifeline shortcode: 838255.

If you or a loved one is at imminent risk, please contact 911 and ask for a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer.

Find more suicide prevention resources by clicking here.