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This New '988' Crisis Hotline Should Make Mental Health Care Easier Than Ever

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

By July 16, 2022, thanks to lobbying by groups such as Vibrant Emotional Health, access to a critically important mental health hotline will be easier than ever before when the 1-800-273-TALK (8255) telephone number is supplemented by a three-digit dialing code.

Those of us who have experienced mental health crises know that quick, confidential counseling can be incredibly important, especially if thoughts of suicide are involved.

It’s no surprise, given the year that we’ve had that the U.S. — and frankly, the rest of the world — is experiencing a collective mental health crisis. The suicide rate has climbed by nearly 30% since 1999, increasing in 49 out of the 50 states. Already suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst young people, as well as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Frances Gonzalez, the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Vibrant Emotional Health, said, “For too long, our system for mental health crisis services has been underfunded and undervalued. We will now meet this challenge with the evidence-based crisis intervention that the 988 crisis line will provide.” 

The 988 crisis line was designated by federal law to become a three-digit dialing code for the Lifeline, signed into law in October 2020. Individuals and organizations focused on mental health had been lobbying for this accessibility transformation by the Federal Communications Commission for years. Their hard work will finally pay off on July 16, 2022.

So, why the hype? Why the importance of just three digits? Well, Gonzalez says that besides accessibility, this change will send a global message that “healing, hope, and help are happening every day.”

Gonzalez added that she hopes the 988 crisis line will be able to quickly and effectively connect a person in a mental health crisis to a trained counselor who will help their needs, reduce health care spending, reduce the use of law enforcement and public health officials, meeting the ever-growing need for care, and will help end stigma.

“988 will help to save lives, every day,” Gonzalez said.

Want to learn more about how you can support your local crisis center while we wait for 988 to go into effect? Click here.

Want to learn more about 988, its inception, and other information? Click here.

Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash

Originally published: December 8, 2021
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