988: Here’s What You Need To Know About This Accessible Mental Health Service
TW: Suicide, Self-Harm
In honor of BIPOC Mental Health Month this July, we’re acknowledging and celebrating the strides taken to create more accessible mental health resources in the United States and the progress made towards breaking the stigma.
In case you missed it: as of 16 July 2022, persons in the United States dealing with a mental health crisis can dial 988 for The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) to receive assistance from trained professionals. The traditional 10-digit number, 800-273-8255, has been simplified to be more swift and memorable in an emergency situation. However, the number still operates but will be automatically rerouted to 988.
The code was developed with the goal to be as easy to dial as 911, but keep the emergencies separate. The issue with dialing 911 during a mental health emergency is that the line wasn’t built to address those specific needs and people seeking help often have to wait too long to receive the necessary care or interact with operators who are not trained to deal with suicide or mental health crises.
In order to make 988 more widely-known, effective, and accessible, it can also be reached across three channels: calls, texts, or chats. According to The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, persons seeking assistance are connected to a trained counselor at a crisis center closest to them. If a local crisis center is too busy to respond right away, the call gets routed to one of 16 backup centers around the country. These centers are accredited, provide training for counselors, and disseminate best practices. They usually serve the entire community, often 24/7, and free of charge.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that in 2020, about 12.2 million adults seriously thought about suicide and 1.2 million attempted suicide, resulting in 45,979 deaths. These alarming figures require drastic changes, and we’re hopeful that 988 will be a strong shift in the right direction and more funds and resources will continue to be put behind this initiative so that as many people as possible are helped.
If you or someone you know is ever in need of assistance, please don’t think twice – dial 988. Read more on BIPOC Mental Health Month on our blog post.