988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offers immediate help for those in distress

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of ending your life, help is available by calling or texting the number 988.

Rhitu Chatterjee, a health correspondent with NPR, explains the new three-digit 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is designed to be a memorable and quick number that connects people who are suicidal or in any other mental health crisis to a trained mental health professional. Currently, the majority of people experiencing a mental health emergency end up dialing 911.

The problem is that 911 wasn’t set up to address mental health needs. Either callers end up in a frenetic emergency room, waiting for hours and sometimes days to get care, or they end up interacting with law enforcement, which can lead to tragedy or trauma.

Mental health advocates hope that 988 will become a widely known, safer and more effective alternative.

“Unlike other medical emergencies, mental health crises overwhelmingly result in a law enforcement response,” said psychologist Benjamin Miller, president of Well Being Trust. “If you look at the data from the police, about 20 percent of their total staff time is spent responding to and transporting individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis.”

“If you are willing to turn to someone in your moment of crisis, 988 will be there,” Xavier Becerra, secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, said at a recent press briefing. “988 won’t be a busy signal, and 988 won’t put you on hold. You will get help.”

If you are in crisis, please call or text 988.

(Information from National Public Radio)


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