RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — For people in crisis, three numbers have made a difference over the last five months: 988.

The national suicide lifeline’s new number, 988, debuted in 2022. The line offers help via call, text or online chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In September 2022, a pilot program introduced LGBTQ+ focused counselor during limited hours. Now, the program will expand to make those counselors available 24/7.

“It’s an opportunity for folks to call and talk with someone. They may not have anyone else in their community that they know that they can trust,” said Kori Hennessey, director of education and programs at the LGBT Center of Raleigh.

Since September, there have been 68,000 calls, 31,000 chats and 39,000 texts to LGBTQ+ specialists.

The LGBT Center of Raleigh has support groups in place but Hennessey says having an anonymous line provides another option for those in crisis.

“Once that person hangs up the phone, they don’t feel like like ok if I run into this person they’re going to know who I am and I’m going to be potentially outed,” said Hennessey.

Hennessey says anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in politics along with daily struggles are having a piling on effect.

“That doesn’t make people feel good at all,” said Hennessey.

Numbers show about half of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year.

“There are unique experiences that people go through. I think in particular, the transgender community because this world isn’t necessarily built for somebody who uses they/them pronouns,” Hennessey said.

It’s why someone trained in these issues and using the right verbiage can make a world of difference. So can being a good ally.

“Maybe they need to learn a little bit more about pronouns or the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation,” Hennessey said.

Governor Roy Cooper announced his plans to invest $1 billion into mental health and substance abuse supports. According to Cooper’s office, some of those investments include:

Making behavioral health services more available when and where people need them.

  • Raise Medicaid reimbursement rates for behavioral health services ($225 million)
  • Improve access to routine, integrated care in communities and schools ($175 million)
  • Address the intersection of the behavioral health and justice systems ($150 million)

Building strong systems to support people in crisis and people with complex needs

  • Build a strong statewide behavioral health crisis system ($200 million)
  • Transform child welfare and family well-being ($100 million)
  • Create sustainable hospitalization and step-down options ($100 million)