States prepare to roll out new 988 suicide prevention lifeline number
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The number 988 was finalized back in 2020 by the Federal Communications Commission, and now, the new hotline is finally ready to launch on July 16th. The concept is simple. Similarly, to 911, you call 988 in a mental health crisis.
Mental health experts say this new number will be lifesaving.
In 2005, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline created a critical hotline 1-800-273-TALK to act as a critical 24/7 national hotline. However, experts explain for people in a mental health crisis, those are a lot of numbers to reach for. Studies have shown the moment of heightened suicide ideation can sometimes be as short as 2 to 5 minutes.
The lifeline is meant to be an easy 3-digit number to reach for in those short moments. Leslie Weirich with Oaklawn Community Health Center explains connecting people to real, trained counselors is crucial for suicide prevention. Human connection is protection. The 988 number is one way to send less people to emergency rooms, or incarceration, but rather, give them the human care they need.
“It is very, very important that you make it as easy as possible to obtain access to help when you are having a mental health crisis,” says Weirich. “Because your brain is overwhelmed in that moment, that is what is happening, and I always say no one wants to die by suicide or in their life, they are trying to stop that intense pain that’s going on in their brain, and if they can do that by dialing three digits instead of 10, it is very very important.”