Important Alert: New National Suicide Prevention Hotline Number
July 17, 2022
Since 2005, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been a life-saving resource to people who are experiencing emotional distress, substance abuse or a suicidal crisis. Although the hotline’s previous number (1-800-273-8255) will remain operational, 988 has now been designated as a new, three-digit code that users can call or text in order to be connected with a trained crisis counselor right away.
Similar to the way 911 works, the primary goal behind 988 is to make it easier for people to get help. Proponents of mental health reform are hopeful that the 988 lifeline will have a positive impact in a few different ways. For example, data shows that police spend approximately 20% of their time responding to and transporting individuals who are experiencing mental health crises. In 2021, police put over 2 million people with serious mental illnesses in jail. Nonviolent individuals undergoing mental health crises have been involved in deadly police shootings due to complications from their disease(s). Advocates for mental health reform believe that 988 has the ability to reduce the risk of potentially violent confrontations by connecting individuals in need to trained counselors immediately. Because mental health crises are medical emergencies, reducing the police response to them could be beneficial for everyone involved. Not only would those undergoing the crisis be put into contact with a trained mental health counselor, but the police responding to them would have more time to answer other calls and aid other individuals in need.
Another goal of the 988 lifeline is to increase the number of positive interventions. Over the years, several studies have shown that simply making the call to the crisis hotline and speaking with someone makes callers feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful. According to the CEO of the Center for Mental Wellbeing, close to 90% of people who call get what they need from the communication itself. The remaining 10% of callers may need in-person assistance or follow-up care. The lifeline is chock full of critical mental health resources. It utilizes more than 200 crisis centers across the nation. To date, the Biden administration has also spent over 400 million dollars strengthening these centers and other mental health providers across the nation so that they can play an integral role in the 988 lifeline.
How the 988 Lifeline Helps
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second-leading cause of death in young people and, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tenth-leading cause of death in the country. Every year, more Americans die by suicide than do in car accidents. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that for every one person that dies by suicide, another 316 individuals seriously consider it.
To date, the lifeline has received over 23 million calls from people in need. The lifeline helps individuals who are experiencing substance abuse, suicidal and/or mental health crisis by connecting them to a local crisis center based on the caller’s area code. There, the caller can talk directly to a trained crisis counselor who provides support and if need be, resources. In some instances, a call to the 988 lifeline will activate the program’s 911 emergency system. Per SAMHSA, in cases where the caller poses an imminent threat to themselves and the threat cannot be reduced while on the lifeline, the crisis counselor will share relevant information with 911 in order to save the caller’s life.
To learn more about the new three-digit dialing code, you can visit this link. If you are undergoing a substance abuse, mental health, or suicidal crisis, please do not hesitate to dial 988 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor who can help you right away.
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