FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — This year marks the one year anniversary of the 988 suicide and crisis hotline.

The Arkansas Department of Health says in 2021, more than 600 Arkansans died by suicide. These are the lives that could potentially be saved by dialing 988.

The 988 hotline provides free and confidential emotional support to people during a mental health crisis. People are able to reach out by text or call to live counselors at any time they need help.

Executive Director of the Arkansas Crisis Center Rebecca Brubaker says she feels the hotline has been extremely beneficial.

“Callers have more access to an operator quicker. And so, they get better service and when they call, they don’t get a busy signal. And so, that’s a much better situation for them,” said Brubaker.

Cpl. Greg Dawson with the Fayetteville Police Department who works on the crisis negotiations team says he has learned empathy is the most important thing when dealing with someone in a crisis.

“As a negotiator and as a police officer, that is one thing that we all try to put ourselves. You know what brought you to this place. And I think the immediate response from every officer is, ‘What can I do to make this person feel safe in this moment?'” said Dawson.

Dawson also feels that the 988 hotline hitting the one year mark can help bring awareness.

“We’ve come a long way just in that one year of recognizing that there is a stigma about mental health. There is a stigma about suicides. And being able to talk about it is really empowered people to, I would say, address it on the front negotiator. And as a police officer, that is one thing that we all try to put ourselves,” said Dawson.

Since it went live last year, the federal government says it has taken more than 5 million calls and texts nationwide.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, you should call or text, 988 to immediately be connected to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.