YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s only been in operation a number of weeks, but already mental health experts are defending the nation’s new suicide hotline network.

Recent social media posts have suggested people avoid calling the 988 Lifeline, suggesting callers could find themselves or their loved ones having police sent to their home or being involuntarily forced into mental health treatment.

Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board Executive Director Duane Piccirilli said the system does just the opposite.

“It actually reduces the need for intervention. If you call 911, that is an emergency line connected to the police and their automatic response may be to call somebody. You call 988 and you will get a response from a trained counselor, a trained professional,” he said.

Piccirilli said only 2% of the calls to 988 result in a police response and that the vast majority are handled by counselors over the phone to offer support and advice to those in crisis.

Calling 988 is not 911. When you call, a counselor will ask you to explain your crisis and will help you over the phone by linking you with resources.

Research has shown that 80% of calls to 988 can be managed and resolved over the phone, according to the agency. In rare circumstances, where this is an imminent risk to someone’s life, other behavioral health mobile responses may be needed such as 911.

It’s also important to note that 988 did not replace the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline but builds on the existing system by using the easy-to-remember three-digit number 988.

You don’t have to have thoughts of suicide to call 988. The service is for anyone experiencing any type of mental health distress.