A new national suicide prevention hotline is available for people facing a mental health emergency as state and federal health agencies seek to expand mental health services.
Similar to dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency, people can now dial 9-8-8 to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where support is available for those in mental distress.
The 9-8-8 number does not replace any of the state’s pre-existing crisis center providers, and the current NSPL number, 800-273-8255, will remain active, the state Department of Health said in a statement. Press release.
“In the same way that 9-1-1 has transformed our ability to respond to emergency situations involving safety or health, 9-8-8 will transform our ability to connect people to help them in emergency situations. behavioral and mental health crisis,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. in a report.
The lifeline is available 24/7, the DOH said, and can also be reached by text. Family members concerned about the mental health of a loved one can also call 9-8-8 for support services. The line is free and confidential.
Veterans and members of the military can reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing 9-8-8, the DOH said, and Spanish-language services will soon be available.
According Ministry of Health dataJefferson County recorded 61 suicides from 2016 to 2020 and Clallam County recorded 99 during the same period, the majority of which were from firearms.
Clallam and Jefferson counties have some of the highest suicide rates in the state, according to DOH data.
From 2016 to 2020, Clallam and Jefferson counties had firearm-related suicide rates of 13.6 and 14.2 per 100,000 population, respectively.
Data from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office shows seven suicides in 2022, all but one involving firearms.
According to the data, there were 147 suicides in Jefferson County between 2006 and 2022, including 110 men. About half of the incidents involved a firearm.
From 2018 to 2020, there were more than 10 suicides each year in Jefferson County, but only five in 2021.
The 9-8-8 number has been put in place as state and local governments try to manage a growing mental health crisis in the United States More than half of Americans will be diagnosed with mental illness at some point in their lives, and one in five adults will suffer from a mental illness within a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For Patrick Johnson, chairman of the board of directors of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) of Jefferson County, this means that no one in the community is spared from mental illness.
Johnson said he hopes the prevention hotline will become as important as 9-1-1 for emergencies. State and local agencies often have their own suicide prevention hotlines, Johnson said, but many of those programs aren’t available around the clock like the national hotline.
“The most important thing is that it’s just a number,” Johnson said. “(People in crisis) can easily access a trained person. We are very excited about this.
Johnson said Washington has made improvements to mental health services and the state legislature has funded programs in Jefferson County and elsewhere.
But while there is increased awareness of mental illness and more resources to deal with it, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand and strained existing resources. NAMI is a private, nonprofit organization that provides mental health services nationwide, and while the Jefferson County branch provides services, the Clallam County branch no longer operates, Johnson said.
Much progress has been made in raising awareness about mental health, Johnson said, but many people still feel a stigma associated with talking about it or seeking help. That in itself can be one of the biggest barriers to mental health services, Johnson said.
“Stigma is such a barrier, and it has to do with the 9-8-8 number, that line is confidential,” Johnson said. “Everything (NAMI does) is completely confidential. We work very hard to protect a person’s privacy.
Resources related to mental illness and the 9-8-8 helpline are available at 988lifeline.org.
Journalist Peter Segall can be reached by email at [email protected]