What to Know About 988 The New Mental Health Line will be launched in July

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Starting in mid-July, a 911 mental health number equivalent to 911 will be launched in the U.S.. The number is 988 and will connect the callers. National Suicide Prevention Linewhich currently operates at 800-273-8255.

The new number, which will be released on July 16, is part of the government’s $ 282 million effort to commit suicide prevention and crisis care services. No. 988 was designated by Congress in 2020 to operate through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has existed since 2005.

But what exactly is 988, and how does all this work? Here’s what you need to know.

What is 988 and what will it do?

Technically, 988 does not offer new services; The National Suicide Prevention Home has been around for decades. However, switching to an easy-to-remember number is expected to increase calls for people in need of help.

The National Suicide Prevention Line now helps thousands of people work in mental health crisis situations every day, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The numbers are simple: you call, send or chat, and you’re connected to a mental health professional who can help. The Lifeline is a network of more than 200 U.S.-funded local and state-funded crisis centers that route calls to the nearest center in accordance with the area code.

These calls are answered by local counselors who are familiar with community mental health resources and can provide referrals to local services, Lifeline explained. “The counselor will listen, support and work with the caller to develop a safety and recovery plan,” says William Zimmermann, LCSW, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care and New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline program manager, National Lifeline back. -up center

Why is this needed?

Mental health experts applaud this move and stress its importance. “The potential benefit of 988 is tremendous,” Zimmermann says. “In times of crisis, rapid access to support and care can improve outcomes.”

Being easy to remember a three-digit number for mental health emergencies “changes the perception of what to do” in a mental health crisis, says Thea Gallagher, Psy.D., assistant professor of psychology at NYU Langone Health and co. -Mind in View podcast host. “It sets the tone for you to have a mental health emergency and that’s just as important as having a physical emergency,” he says.

It also helps break down the stigma that is often associated with mental health problems, he says. “It shows that this is for anyone and everyone,” Gallagher says. “If you’re fighting, call us, we’re here for you. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there.

Accessibility is important, said Dr. Kelly Green, principal investigator of the Penn Center for Suicide Prevention. “This is for anyone with suicidal thoughts or emotional distress,” he says. “If you’re worried about a friend or loved one and you’re not sure how best to help them, you shouldn’t wait until you have suicidal thoughts or severe anxiety. You can call now.”

It’s particularly easy to remember a three-digit number, and that’s crucial, says Arianna Galligher, LISW-S, associate director of STAR Trauma Recovery Center at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “If a person can’t remember the phone number to call, they won’t call, so they won’t be able to get the help they need,” he says. John Mayer, clinical psychologist, Ph.D., author Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life He says the three-digit number is a “wonderful idea” because when people are overwhelmed it is always affected by memory and it is impossible to remember numbers that are not used often.

Although people are often asked to call 911 in a mental health crisis, having a 988 number is aimed at someone who is trained in the area where they need help, in the face of law enforcement who do not know how to react properly, Zimmermann says. “988 will provide an alternative to law enforcement as the first intervention for the mental health crisis,” he says.

The 988 number is expected to be huge for mental health, so high that the National House for Suicide Prevention wants to wait a year to ensure they have the infrastructure to support all calls to announce, Green says. But, if you need mental health care, it is good to know that only three digits will connect you to help ASAP.

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