988 hotline could be transformational

This is a sensible idea to a serious problem. In the U.S., a person dies by suicide about every 11 minutes. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for American youth ages 10-14.



July 28, 2022 - 12:24 PM

A crisis counseling sign on the Golden gate Bridge, San Francisco. Starting in July, callers in crisis will just dial 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, making it much easier than dialing the current 10-digit number. (Dan Henson/Dreamstime/TNS)

Everyone is familiar with 911. But another three-digit code could soon enter Americans’ normal lexicon: 988.

As of July 16, that is the new number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Anyone experiencing a mental health emergency can call or text that number to connect with trained professionals, who can provide support and offer referrals for treatment. The old suicide prevention number will continue to exist, but the goal of the shorter code is to make the hotline more accessible and boost awareness.

This is a sensible idea in response to a serious problem. In the United States, a person dies by suicide about every 11 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for Americans ages 10 to 24 — the second for children between 10 and 14. The police and other emergency services, who are often called in to respond to mental distress, are not equipped to handle such situations. The 988 hotline seeks to decouple these services from law enforcement and link callers to counselors with knowledge of local resources.

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