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Crisis hotlines busy as they try to fight record suicide rates

Inside Howard County's only homeless shelter, Tina Field-Barnett and her team answer calls all day. (WBFF)

COLUMBIA, Md. (WBFF) -- Inside Howard County's only homeless shelter, Tina Field-Barnett and her team answer calls all day.

"A lot of our [callers] call in because they need to connect with somebody. They just don't know what else to do," Field-Barnett said. "Our job is not to fix problems for them, but to help them fix them themselves."

The Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center in Columbia receives about 30,000 calls a year.

"It always amazes me and it humbles me in a way where people are willing to pick up the phone and be vulnerable to somebody who they don't know," Field-Barnett said. "You have people who call in and say, 'You guy's helped me make the best decision I've ever made. You guys helped me get to safety. You helped save my life.'"

The Centers for Disease Control reports suicide is at a 30-year high in the U.S.

"We have children as young as 7-8 years old thinking about suicide," counselor Sohel Vahora said. "Some callers, they just want you to listen. (They're) dealing with the day-to-day stress or they want someone to talk to."

Grassroots is housed at 6700 Freetown Road in Howard County's only homeless shelter.

"I say so often, 'What can we do to keep yourself safe today? What can we do together to keep you safe?'" Field-Barnett said.

She says the hotline got four times the call volume on election night, as people struggled to cope with the results.

"People were shocked. I think the results were unexpected for many people, especially here in Maryland, because of our political climate," Field-Barnett said.

The 24-hour hotline number is (410) 531-6677, a number sent home with all Maryland high school students.

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