What you know about 988, the new mental health hotline that launches in July

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From mid-July, an emergency hotline equivalent to 911’s mental health will be launched in the United States. The number is 988 and will connect callers with National Rescue Line for Suicide Preventionwhich currently operates under number 800-273-8255.

The new issue, which launches on July 16, is part of a $ 282 million government effort to prevent suicide and provide crisis care services. The number 988 was set by Congress in 2020 to run through the National Suicide Rescue Line, which has existed since 2005.

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

What is 988 and what will it do?

Technically, the 988 does not provide a new service – the National Suicide Prevention Line has been around for decades. However, switching to an easy-to-remember number is expected to increase calls for people in need.

According to the Ministry of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Suicide Prevention Line currently helps thousands of people deal with mental health crises every day.

The way the number works is simple: you call, send text messages or chat through it, and you’re connected to a mental health professional who can help. Lifeline consists of a network of more than 200 local and state-funded crisis centers in the United States with calls directed to the nearest center based on the region code.

These calls are answered by local counselors who know the community’s mental health resources and can provide recommendations to local services, Lifeline explains. “The counselor will listen, offer support, and work with the caller to develop a safety and recovery plan,” said William Zimmerman, LCSW, program manager at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care and New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline, National Rescue Line. . – center up

Why is this necessary?

Mental health experts welcome this move and stress its importance. “The potential benefits of 988 are huge,” Zimmerman said. “In times of crisis, quick access to support and care can improve results.

Having an easy-to-remember three-digit mental health emergency number “changes the perception” of what to do in a mental health crisis, says Thea Gallagher, Psy.D., clinical assistant in psychology at NYU Langone Health and co. -host of the podcast Mind in View. “It sets the tone that you can have a mental health emergency, and that’s important, as well as a physical emergency,” she said.

It also helps break down the stigma often associated with mental health problems, she said. “It shows that it’s for everyone,” says Gallagher. “If you have difficulty, call, we are here for you. That’s what it says. “

Accessibility is important, says Dr. Kelly Green, a senior researcher at the Penn Center for Suicide Prevention. “It’s for anyone who has suicidal thoughts or emotional stress,” she said. “If you’re worried about a friend or loved one and you’re not sure how best to support them, you don’t have to wait until you think about suicide or suffering. You can call now. ”

In particular, a three-digit number is easy to remember, and that’s crucial, says Ariana Galliger, LISW-S, associate director of the STAR Injury Recovery Center at Ohio University’s Wexner Medical Center. “If a person can’t remember a phone number to call, they won’t call, so they won’t have access to the support they need,” she said. Clinical psychologist John Mayer, Ph.D., author of Family Fit: Find your balance in life, says that the three-digit number is a “fantastic idea, because when people are in trouble, memory is always affected and remembering numbers that are not used often is impossible.”

Although people are often called to call 911 in a mental health crisis, having 988 directs them to someone who is actually trained in the area where they need help, in relation to overall law enforcement, who may not know how to reacts correctly, says Zimmerman. “988 will provide an alternative to law enforcement as a key intervention in a mental health crisis,” he said.

The number 988 is expected to be huge for mental health – so huge that the National Suicide Prevention Line plans to wait a year to advertise it to ensure they have the infrastructure to support all calls, Green said. But if you need mental health support, it’s good to know that three simple numbers will connect you to help as soon as possible.

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