On July 16, 2022, people who are in need of any kind of mental health support can now call or text the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. The new three-digit code will not replace the existing Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, but will make it easier to remember in times of crisis. This will make the mental health resource available to more people in the midst of distress.
You can also reach trained counselors via chat by visiting 988lifeline.org.
What is the 988 lifeline?
The new lifeline is a direct line that is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors, allowing people to seek mental health assistance at any time. The line is for anyone experiencing mental health distress and needs immediate help.
Since it was launched in 2005 by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has fielded over 20 million calls. The new three-digit code of 988 routes callers to the same mental health service, but will be easier to remember in an emergency. It associates easily with the 911 emergency line and the 211 social service hotline.
Who Can Call the New Lifeline?
You don’t need to be in immediate danger of suicide to reach out to the new helpline. The 988 lifeline is for anyone in the U.S. who needs mental health support or is in any kind of mental health distress. The same applies to the preexisting 800 number.
Over 3 million adults in Texas are living with some sort of mental illness and over 750,000 adult Texans have seriously contemplated suicide in the past year. Despite the high number of people who have mental health needs, over 60% of Texans who could benefit from mental health support didn’t receive any.
Just like the previous 800 number, the new 988 lifeline is completely free to use. The old hotline will also still remain in use and can be called at any time for the exact same mental health support offered for 988.
What Happens When I Use the Lifeline?
Just like the previous number, you can call or text the hotline to obtain services. You’ll be connected to a trained counselor that is already a part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network. This network is made up of about 200 local crisis centers and callers are usually connected to the crisis center closest to their location.
When callers connect with the 24-hour services, the counselors will listen and provide support. If any further mental health resources are necessary, the callers are then connected with them as needed.
How Will This Change Mental Health Assistance?
In the midst of a mental health crisis or emergency, most people can’t remember the 1-800 lifeline number and resort to dialing 911 for mental health support. Millions of calls involving a person experiencing mental health or substance abuse issues are made to 911 every single year. Unfortunately, not many police officers are trained to deal with mental health crises and can’t be expected to deliver proper mental health support in those situations.
It has also been noted that sometimes certain communities won’t call 911 when experiencing mental health distress due to contentious relationships with the police. If they don’t have the 1-800 number memorized, then they have nowhere to turn for help. With the new three-digit number that’s much easier to remember, these communities will find it easier to reach out for help.
Get the Word Out About 988 and Help Save Lives
A recent poll from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) showed that 77% of U.S adults had never heard of 988. In order for the number to be as effective as it can be, everyone needs to spread the word of the new crisis lifeline number. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing any form of mental health distress, don’t hesitate to call either the old 1-800 hotline or the new 988 lifeline. The resources are there for you to use, free of charge. Please don’t hesitate if you need help. Yours may be the life you save.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis (but are not in imminent danger), you can call 988 instead of 911 for immediate support. For continued assistance, Carencia is here for you. We offer a warm and welcoming environment that invites discussion and acts as a safe space. We believe that prioritizing mental health is the key to leading a healthy and happy life. Contact us today to see how we can empower you through attentive and mindful care.