ATLANTA, GA – July 20, 2022 – Most everyone knows to call 9-1-1 if they need immediate help during a medical emergency; however, most people don’t know who to contact quickly if they or a loved one needs help during a mental health crisis. A new three-digit phone number, 9-8-8, will route callers to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. This was formerly called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and reachable through a 10-digit number. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a leader of suicide prevention and mental health crisis care through a national network of more than 200 crisis centers staffed by trained counselors. It provides free and confidential emotional support to Americans, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Many studies have shown, that after speaking with a counselor, people who call the Lifeline feel much better, more hopeful, less suicidal, less depressed and less overwhelmed.
A shorter easy-to-remember phone number can make counseling more accessible and save lives. When police officers are dispatched to a 9-1-1 call, they may not have the expertise to respond to a mental health situation like a highly skilled counselor has in dealing with suicide prevention. Brad Kennedy, chief operating officer at an addiction and mental health rehabilitation center in Texas, as told to USA Today, feels that a shorter number can make all the difference “not just for individuals experiencing suicidality, but for loved ones who are less likely to recall complex numbers during emotional distress.”
The 9-8-8 hotline change is a positive step that should result in a larger volume of calls. However, it is felt that the crisis centers may not be able to handle more telephone calls because of limited funding and resources. Therefore, more funding will be needed to provide more staff, more training, and more resources to meet this growing need.
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