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Columbia Business Monthly

SC Department of Education Partners With Mental Health America to Help Kids Struggling with Pandemic Challenges

Jan 27, 2022 01:03PM ● By David Dykes

Covid-19 has been a terrible strain for many families, including children, parents, health care workers, educators, students, child care workers, and so many others.

Students struggle with being in school – and then out. Parents wrestle with having to work, but also stay home with children cast into a remote learning environment.

Hospital staffs are overwhelmed with caseloads.

The invisible toll: mental health.

So it was gratifying to read that the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) has partnered with Mental Health America of Greenville County (MHAGC) to sustain the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as both organizations work to combat the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on child well-being. 

“Our students have and continue to face unprecedented challenges in their academic and home lives,” said State Superintendent Molly Spearman. “We encourage all students who are struggling to cope with loss and adversity to reach out and seek support. This hotline provides a great service that is being utilized more than ever. This funding will ensure it remains active now and into the future, allowing students an avenue to secure the services they need to be successful in life and in school.”

In 2019 through a two-year capacity-building grant offered by Vibrant Emotional Health and in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, MHAGC began serving the entire state of South Carolina with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

The grant ended in September 2021, and the South Carolina Department of Education has provided $250,000 in gap funding to preserve the hotline until additional funding from grants are secured in 2022.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week confidential hotline, chat, and texting service that offers a nonjudgmental sounding board for people to talk about life’s struggles and offer a listening ear and to provide crisis intervention. 

Students can call 800-273-8255 or text 864-77-TEENS (83367) and get connected with crisis intervention specialists and local resources.

Lifeline officials say 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. While some areas may be currently able to connect to the Lifeline by dialing 988, this dialing code will be available to everyone across the United States starting on July 16, 2022. 

When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. The trained counselors will listen, how callers’ problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.

The Lifeline’s network of over 180 crisis centers has been in operation since 2005, and has been proven to be effective. Numerous studies have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking with a Lifeline counselor. 

As of October 2021, MHAGC reported youth aged 7 to 19 made a total of 2,891 calls, texts and other messages to the hotline, making 2021 the year with the highest call volumes for the age group. The top two primary issues were suicide and family relationships.

“Our youth are struggling more than ever,” said Jennifer Piver, MHAGC executive director. “We see that in the calls where 46 percent of the youth are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Since school started this year we have intervened in 45 suicide attempts; the youngest was 7. 

“Currently, our SC Lifeline does not have sustainable funding, and we are incredibly grateful that Molly Spearman heard this need and the SC Department of Education granted this funding so that the calls from our youth are answered in SC.”

MHAGC is also launching the new 988 number in July 2022. Like 911, 988 will serve as a nationwide calling code and easy to remember number that offers support for emotional and suicidal crisis. The number will also be added to student ID badges.

For more information about MHAGC and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, go to

And please, if you’re struggling, don’t wait. Someone is willing to help.

David Dykes is editor of Greenville Business Magazine, Columbia Business Monthly, and Charleston Business Magazine.