JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Beginning July 16, a new national mental health hotline will launch to operate in the United States.
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Similar to 911, 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
When people call, text or chat with 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who are part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s existing network. These trained counselors will listen to them, understand how their issues affect them, provide support, and connect them to resources if needed.
Lifeline’s current phone number (800) 273-8255 will always remain available for those in emotional distress or in a suicidal crisis, even after the nationwide launch of 988.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to statistics collected by the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 46,000 people died by suicide in the United States in 2020. Suicide rates increased by 30% between 2000 and 2018 and decreased in 2019 and 2020.
The number of people who think or attempt suicide is even higher. The CDC reports that in 2020, approximately 12.2 million American adults have seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million have planned a suicide attempt, and 1.2 million have attempted suicide.
The next step is to understand how states will pay for this new resource. Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit administrator of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, has awarded grants to 49 U.S. states and territories through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 988 State Planning Grant initiative.
“Access to mental health and crisis support has never been more critical for Americans,” said Kimberly Williams, president and CEO of Vibrant Emotional Health. “Vibrant is committed to providing US states and territories with some of the resources they will need to plan for the implementation of 988 and to support their local crisis centers. By working together, we will increase access to care, reduce the stigma around mental health and ultimately save lives.
In 2020, bipartisan legislation in Congress mandated the launch of the 988 emergency number; but left financial support for personnel, phone lines, computer systems, and other infrastructure to the states, and only four of them (Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington) began funding plans.
Despite this, nonprofit administrator Vibrant Emotional Health urges states to “exercise their authority to implement 988 fees, similar to current 911 fees, which would be limited to crisis center and service provider expenses, to ensure a robust infrastructure.
To find out more about the 988 lifeline Click here.
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