New Mental Health National Suicide Hotline Number 988 – How Will 988 Help People In Mental Health Crisis?

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Opinion Article by Taylor Easley (she/her), Minority Graduate Fellow in Public Health

We all know people or are the person that has been in a mental or behavioral health crisis. People will have good days and bad days, and for those bad days, many people, myself included, have a therapist that we can talk with once a week or every other week. But what would you do if you or someone you loved was at a very low point and was in a crisis right now or did not have anyone to talk to? Not all therapists are on call 24/7, and sometimes they might have to change appointments. Many therapists on their voicemail say that if you are in an emergency, call 911. What if your emergency is mental or behavioral? Do you want police officers coming to your door? In the last few years, we have seen what happens in the United States when a person has a mental or behavioral health crisis, and police officers are called out to help; it could make the crisis worse.

A friend told me there were many times when they were in crisis. One night my friend had a bad day and an even worse night. Before they did anything, they called the 1-800 number for the National Suicide Hotline. My friend said that after talking to the person at the hotline within minutes, they were not in crisis anymore. Although calling the National Suicide Hotline did not stop all the feelings and emotions, talking to that person helped my friend know that although they were currently in a crisis, it will not always be like this. Sometimes talking to someone that is a person that you do not know can make a big difference. Also, the person you are talking to is a trained mental health professional or a trained volunteer.

Since 2005 there has been a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255); Congress passed the 988 National Suicide Hotline Designation Act in 2020. In 2022, the 1-800 number became a three-digit number, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The 1-800 number is still available; these calls are rerouted to 988. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a 24/7 number that can support a person at any time and is a lifeline for people. It does surprise me that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has only been around for 18 years.

People will post and re-post on social media about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, but how many people use the lifeline? Or, people say I want to listen to your story rather than be at your funeral, but sometimes talking to the people who know you the best does not help; it could make it worse. In 2020 alone, every 11 minutes, someone died by suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death for people ages 10-34. This hotline is needed more now than before. Dialing 988 instead of 911 would put a person in direct contact with someone that can help you when you are in a mental health crisis.

Now 988 can be used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing. There is more access to 988 for people. There is a text/chat, traditional relay service, and video relay service. For video relay service, it can be traditional relay or video. Veterans had their own number, which was the Nation-Wide Veterans Crisis Life Number, and now veterans can use the 988. Veterans will dial 988 and press 1, and they will get connected with the Veterans Crisis Line. Or, a veteran can text 838255.

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is for any mental health crisis, and you can call this number anytime, any day. 988 has helped and will help many people. If you call 988, you will be connected with someone with your phone number area code, not your location. To learn more about 988, you can visit the links below.