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988 Is the New, Easy to Remember Suicide And Crisis Hotline Phone Number

988 Is the New, Easy to Remember Suicide And Crisis Hotline Phone Number

Starting July 16, Americans in crisis will have a new number to call. While 911 is still the national number for physical health emergencies, 988 will put you in touch with mental health counselors for mental health emergencies. Whether you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts, addiction or substance abuse issues or any other kind of emotional crisis, calling or texting 988 will get you in touch with people who can help.

It’s a result of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, a 2020 law that spurred the creation of this new hotline. 988 is basically a rebrand of the popular Lifeline number (1-800-273-8255), and that 1-800 number will continue to work for people struggling with suicidal thoughts or concerned for a friend or loved one. Just like Lifeline, 988 will put you in touch with the nearest available mental health counselor in your area who can listen to you and connect you to local resources for whatever steps you need to take.

It’s a small shift, but experts say anything that makes it a little easier for someone in crisis to reach out can go a long ways. “We know that the 16th is the start of the transition and not an end. There’s still a lot of work to be done to strengthen and transform the crisis care continuum,” said Miriam Delphin-Rittmon at a press briefing. Delphin-Rittmon is the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). She said calls will be available English or Spanish, with translation assistance available for people who speak other languages.

Suicide is a crisis in America, claiming more lives every year than car crashes. In the depths of the pandemic, during 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death among young Americans, just behind accidents. 1.2 million Americans tried to kill themselves that year, and over 12 million say they seriously thought about it. According to Buzzfeed News, 45,979 people died by suicide that year — one person every eleven minutes. And the 2020 suicide rate in the U.S. was actually lower than it had been in previous years.

This new hotline probably won’t fix everything, but it’s a good step. The suicide prevention lifeline received about 2.4 million calls in 2020. In 2018, a survey found that about 80 percent of callers said the hotline helped prevent them from committing suicide.

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