America’s 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Launches Saturday

FRIDAY, July 15, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Starting Saturday, if someone is contemplating suicide or having a mental health crisis, they can only dial three numbers — 988 — for help.

Callers will be connected with a trained counselor at a local call center and ultimately routed to potentially life-saving support services. The three-digit code of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline replaces the 10-digit number of what was formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The new three-digit number is easy to remember, free, available 24/7 and confidential, said Thea Gallagher, clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health in New York. health day. “If 988 becomes just as ubiquitous as 911, we’re saying mental health and physical health are on the same level, and that breaks the stigma,” she said.

The new number will also accept text messages and live chat is available, said May Lau, MD, pediatrician at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and medical director of the medical center’s adolescent and young adult clinic. for Dallas Children. health day. Crisis counselors speak multiple languages ​​and are culturally competent to counsel members of the LGBTQ community. There are also resources available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, Lau said.

The new line is not just for people considering suicide. Counselors are also skilled in discussing self-harm, substance abuse, domestic violence, and other mental health issues. If a caller needs immediate medical attention, 988 will work with local police or hospitals to dispatch services.

“We try to help people cope with crises before they are life-threatening,” said Anthony Wood, interim CEO and COO of the American Association for Suicidology. health day. The group has been calling for a three-digit suicide hotline for years. And while a three-digit number is a big step forward, there are still a few issues to work out, Wood said. For starters, local crisis centers will need more counselors to handle the expected surge in calls, he said.

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