Since July 16, 2022, people in the US who are suffering from a mental health or drug crisis, can call or text the number 988 to connect to the suicide and crisis lifeline.
Since July 16, 2022, people in the United States who are suffering from a mental health or drug crisis, have been able to call or text the number 988 to connect to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Through this wonderful new service, callers can expect immediate assistance without fear of the line being busy or being put on hold.
This new number offers people in the United States easier access to assistance from counselors and mental health professionals. While the new number, 988 provides expedient access to emergency assistance, it should be noted that the previous number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is still active (1-800-273-8255). People in the U.S. can dial either number to get the help they need in the event of a mental health crisis.
Suicide and suicidal ideation are increasingly concerning issues. Depression rates have tripled since the pandemic started, leading to a rise in mental health crises.
In 2020, there were 130 suicides per day on average. Suicide has also become one of the leading causes of death in younger people between the ages of 10 and 34. Factors such as stress, work, and financial issues can push someone into depression and suicidal ideation.
Suicide prevention is more important than ever, and mental health awareness is at an all-time high. Depression and suicidal ideation are difficult to face alone. Trained professionals are waiting on the 988 line to listen to and help those in need at all times.
The 988 line means people in a suicidal emergency can more easily dial in and get someone to listen to them and guide them appropriately.
When people have physical emergencies, everyone knows that the number to dial for help is 911.
However, most officers don’t have the in-depth training necessary to deal with people in a heightened state of mental health distress. Therefore, people who call 911 in the middle of a mental health crisis, often fail to receive the on-site, specialized support that they require.
This is why the new 988 number is so important. It's a direct line to mental health professionals who are trained to help people in crisis.
The intention is that the new number for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline becomes synonomous with mental health support, the way 911 the top-of-mind gateway for assistance during most emergency situations.
For younger people and seniors who may find remembering traditional phone numbers to be a challenge, the new three digit number presents a simplified approach to accessing mental health assistance.
The creation of 988 is a product of a rare bipartisan effort in the U.S. Congress.
The law behind the creation of 988 was signed in 2020 but it took almost two years until the service was launched this year. This bill was created in a joint effort with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
According to the HHS, in 2021 the lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats and texts and that number is expected to double in the first year of the new 988 service. To that end, President Biden added $400 million of funding toward adding capacity to local and backup call centers.
The introduction of the 988 line is just one step in addressing the complex mental health crisis in the U.S. Establishing additional crisis services with well-trained professionals will help not only people with suicidal thoughts, but also those with mental health issues like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
However, there are some limitations to 988. Some people cannot afford a phone. People who live in rural areas may not have access to reliable mobile service. These issues of “digital equity” affect many Americans and many efforts are ongoing to address them.
Establishing this service was a major step in the right direction when it comes to supporting people struggling with mental illness. The new 988 number will help connect people with the right resources: 988 is free to call, confidential, and available 24/7.
The immediate need is to spread the news of this new service far and wide. If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, please call 988 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone. Help is available.