National hotline

What is 988? New National Mental Distress Helpline Launched

A new national hotline aims to help people in mental distress. The helpline will use existing services across the country to direct people struggling with a mental health crisis to support and resources. The hotline, which is now available, will have the three-digit number 988. Here’s what you need to know.

What will the new 988 hotline do?

On July 14, the Federal Communications Commission voted designate 988 as a national suicide prevention hotline. Calling the three-digit number will connect callers to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It will be available nationwide on July 16.

Anyone in the United States can call or text 988 to be connected with trained counselors who can offer support and resources. Counselors can also assess suicide risk and offer health service referrals or engage necessary emergency services if necessary.

Why has the national hotline been reorganized?

The new 988 hotline will connect callers to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has been in place since 2004. The new number redesign is modeled after 911, in the hope that the line will more easy to remember will allow more people in crisis to remember that the resource is available and how to contact them. The old Lifeline 1-800 number will also continue to be supported.

“It’s a new number, but it’s not a new service,” said John Draper, executive director of Lifeline and an executive at Vibrant Emotional Health, a New York-based nonprofit that administers the buoy. rescue. New York Times.

Advocates hope the new hotline will make mental health care safer for everyone.

The new number aims to provide an easier way to get emergency mental health care. But advocates also see the shift in numbers as an opportunity to make mental health care and the medical system more accessible and safer for everyone.

“Unlike other medical emergencies, mental health crises drive an overwhelming response from law enforcement,” said psychologist Benjamin Miller, president of Well Being Trust. NPR. “If you look at police data, about 20% of their total staff time is spent responding to and transporting people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.”

Who should use the new 988 hotline?

With the number change, advocates hope it clarifies that the support line is for all mental health issues, not just suicidal ideation. Counselors are trained to support and offer resources for various mental health situations, including suicidal ideation, trauma treatment, substance abuse and self-harm.

The hotline is also available for people wishing to know how they can help a friend or relative. Counselors can refer callers to support and offer advice to help someone struggling with their mental health.

Some states have expressed concern about funding for the hotline.

As states prepare for the launch of the new three-digit number on 16, many public health officials have expressed concern that funding and staffing the line could quickly become an issue. Congress passed legislation in 2020 to fund the 988 hotline, per Politicsbut only received the money allocated for that year.

Totaling $282 million, that sounds like a lot of money, and it’s 10 times more than the hotline’s $24 million budget last year. But the objective is that in the long term each State finances the hotline by collecting telecommunications costs.

As some people have pointed out, the program should not start smoothly. The goal is to perfect the hotline in the same way 911 was born.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. You can also contact Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860, Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or your local suicide crisis center.