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New Number 988 is for Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

July 21st, 2022 News

By Beth Ann Wilmore, Head of Nursing / Mercy Community Healthcare

Suicides continue to rise in the United States. For people between the ages of 10-34, suicide is the leading cause of death. In 2020, there was one death by suicide every 11 minutes. With so many people experiencing mental health-related crisis or suicide crisis without support or care, 988 hopes to be a step forward in the crisis care system.

New this month is a three-digit, nationwide phone number that connects directly to the confidential Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. By simply calling or texting 988, a trained mental health professional will be connected to you. It’s a network of over 200 crisis centers that provide 24-hour service via a toll-free hotline by using the newly designated number 988 from anywhere in the United States. Calls will be routed to a crisis center closest to you. If the crisis center cannot respond immediately, the calls get forwarded to one of the 16 backup centers around the county.

988 is part of a long-term effort to ramp up mental health emergency response teams in lieu of law enforcement. The joint effort combines the Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

988 works like 911 and is available to anyone in suicide crisis or emotional distress. Designed to be easy to remember and instead of dispatching police, firefighters or paramedics, 988 will connect people in crisis to help right away. Currently, people experiencing a mental health emergency call 911. The problem is that 911 is not set up to address mental health needs. Callers then end up in the emergency room or interacting with law enforcement.

(Available for Veterans is an option to press “1” to be connected to the Veterans Crisis Lifeline, which serves our nation’s Veterans, service members, National Guard, Reserve and those who support them. For texts, Veterans should continue to text the Veterans Crisis Lifeline short code: 838255).

To prepare for the rise in demand, the federal government has made a significant investment in the 988 network. $432 million has been dedicated to building up local and backup call centers for mental health crisis.

Here at Mercy, we are working to our nurses and staff on how to educate patients about 988 and have started implementing 988 in our safety plans across all departments. We are encouraged by this initiative!

Available 24 hours, 7 days a week. Languages: English, Spanish

(988 was previously know as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which launched in 2005.)

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