Mental health hotline to take effect

Published 8:30 am Friday, July 15, 2022

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Beginning Saturday, July 16, a new hotline number will take effect for those who experience a mental health crisis.

The number 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The current Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will always remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, even after 988 is launched nationally.

Signed into law in October 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act authorized 988 as the new three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“This triumph was the outcome of many years of activism by the mental health community for the creation of an easy-to-remember telephone number that would increase the accessibility of the Lifeline,” said Josephine Par, media contact for Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit administrator of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

According to a news release, Vibrant Health believes the new 988 number, once implemented, will ensure the Lifeline will continue to be America’s mental health safety net by providing emotional support for people in distress, reducing suicides and mental health crises, and providing a pathway to well-being for all.

“The implementation of 988 is an acknowledgment of the vital role of crisis services in this country,” says Dr. John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Executive Vice President of National Networks for Vibrant Emotional Health.

“Vibrant and the Lifeline look forward to working with states and crisis centers to strengthen the national mental health safety net that the Lifeline provides to people in distress every day.”

When people call, text or chat to the 988 number, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network.

These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.

Lifeline’s network of over 200 crisis centers has been in operation since 2005, and according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the organization has been proven to be effective.

Numerous studies by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline organization have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed and more hopeful after speaking with a Lifeline counselor.