A New 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline Is Like 911 for Mental Health Emergencies

Starting Saturday, July 16, 2022, those experiencing suicidal thoughts or other mental health emergencies can receive 24/7 help by calling or texting 9-8-8. Modeled after 9-1-1, which receives an estimated 240 million calls in the U.S. each year, the new suicide hotline will offer assistance to those in need of help, or those seeking help for loved ones.

Previously the National Suicide Prevention Hotline had a 10-digit number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The shortened number, now the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, provides a more memorable way for people in emotional distress to reach free, confidential and customized crisis support from professionals.

Traditionally, 9-1-1 dispatchers send police, firefighters or paramedics to mental health emergencies. 9-8-8 will connect callers to a crisis center near where the call is placed with trained mental health counselors. On average, a call is answered in approximately 45 seconds, and and in most cases less than 2 percent of Lifeline calls involve emergency services.

Currently there is a network of more than 180 centers in 50 states. Lifeline crisis centers can make local connections to care for those in need, and provide mental health training within their communities.

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“We’re committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness,” the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline states on their website.

Launched in 2005 by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Vibrant Emotional Health, the lifeline has received over 20 million calls from people in distress looking for support when they need it most.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, shares that one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people, and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, was the tenth-leading cause of death in the nation per the CDC. Studies have shown that after a Lifeline call the majority of callers felt less depressed, suicidal, overwhelmed and felt more hopeful.

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Macaire Douglas

Macaire Douglas lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to prevent the illegal abandonment of newborns nationwide. Since its inception in 2000, more than 3,600 newborns have been safely surrendered and adopted into loving homes.

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