New Nationwide Suicide Prevention Hotline Starting July 16, 2022
Starting tomorrow (Saturday, July 16, 2022) Suicide Prevention has a new number. 988. 988 will become the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (similar to calling 911). According to the FCC, all phone service providers will be required to connect callers who dial 988 (you don't need to have an account with any particular provider).
This is pretty big and good news, says Mathew Bjorngaard, Executive Director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Southeastern MN here in Rochester. (NAMI SEMN)
Minnesota and really the United States, in general, is facing a significant mental health crisis. And with that, it requires an equally significant response. Up to this point too many people experiencing a mental health or substance use or a suicidal crisis end up in emergency rooms or jails, instead of getting the care that they need. And I feel the new 988 lifeline is an important step in promoting and connecting people with help and support during a crisis.
988 Hotline Long Time Coming
The work on this project began in 2019 after reports of suicide shocked the nation.
Suicide prevention is a critical need. Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide claimed the lives of more than 44,000 Americans in 2020, and evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated suicidal thoughts and actions. (Download FCC factsheet here.)
What Happens When I Dial 988?
Is 988 Expected to Increase the Calls for Help?
According to a story in USA Today,
In the first year of 988's implementation, the number of contacts for the lifeline is expected to increase to 7.6 million – a twofold increase compared with the 3.3 million calls, texts or chats in 2020.
The Local View on What's Needed
In the case of increased calling, Bjorngaard sees needs beyond the immediate need for more people to respond to the anticipated influx of calls...
...but on the back end as well for services and resources for "what's next" right after you've talked to someone. We need to make sure there are additional services readily available throughout the different communities, not, not just in the state but throughout the United States as well, so folks don't get off the phone and then sit and wonder, "Well, what's next? I don't have access to a lot of the mental health resources in my area for follow-ups." just as an example.
The National View on 988
National director of advocacy and public policy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Angela Kimball said funding is a problem for many states,
This is really a struggle across the country...While Congress has allocated some one-time funding and funds for the national lifeline, they have not financed 988 as an entire crisis response system across the country. And so really, it is up to states to step up to the plate and create the funding streams.
And, according to Kimball, that's happened in some states, and in others, they've "allocated insufficient resources."
Personal Note: As a former NAMI Southeastern Minnesota board member and eager speaker on My Mental Health Stumbling Saunter I am excited for the change, but worry about states that won't / can't fund the need to the level needed. However, baby steps are better than no steps.
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