As of July 16, anyone in the U.S. who is experiencing a mental health crisis can dial 988 to automatically connect to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This new, easy-to-remember number puts you in touch with free and confidential support 24/7. It’s for anyone who has suicidal thoughts, a substance use disorder or any other form of emotional distress.
Why Is the 988 Code Necessary?
Since mental illness is so prevalent in America and suicide is a leading cause of death, interventions on a national scale are vital for saving lives and preventing tragedies. Lawmakers signed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act into law in 2020, setting the stage for the new code’s activation.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline consists of more than 200 local and state-funded crisis centers across the U.S. Now, calling or texting 988 will route you to the nearest center based on your area code, which will connect you to experienced mental health counselors who are familiar with the resources and services available near you.
The original suicide hotline phone number, 800-273-8255, is still available for people who need it, and there’s also an online chat. However, the 988 shortcut will make lifesaving interventions much more accessible and ensure people get the targeted help they need without calling 911, thus freeing up first responder resources for other types of emergencies.
Are You in Crisis?
Transitioning to the 988 dialing code comes at a time when Americans need this support more than ever. In 2020, there was approximately one death by suicide every 11 minutes, and the mental health crisis hotline received nearly 2.4 million calls.
While anyone can struggle with their mental well-being, some groups have a higher risk of suicide than others.
- Military veterans
- First responders
- Members of the LGBTQ+ community
- Middle-aged people
- Native Americans
- Previous attempt survivors
- Those experiencing social isolation
Having a quicker, more memorable way to reach the mental health crisis hotline can help people feel less alone and afraid. A 2018 study found follow-up calls prevented nearly 80% of callers from taking their lives.
The Evolution of 988
Over time, government officials say they envision 988 offering additional services like mobile crisis teams or stabilization centers, which provide voluntary support and treatment to anyone grappling with mental illness or substance use.
The Biden administration invested $432 million into the 988 transition, significantly boosting the mental health hotline’s call capacity. However, more funding is critical to ensure the staff who answer calls reflect the unique needs of the communities they serve. If passed, the bipartisan 988 Implementation Act would provide every state with federal funding to support their community-based crisis responses.
Help Is Always Available
Mental health issues and substance abuse frequently co-occur. If you are having a tough time, there is no shame in admitting you have a problem you can’t solve by yourself. Cumberland Heights is Tennessee’s first addiction treatment center to earn certification from the American Society of Addiction Medicine. We provide gender-specific inpatient and outpatient treatment in a supportive environment that paves the way for lifelong recovery. Reach out to us today to learn more.