If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or having a mental health crisis, you can dial just three numbers — 988 — to get help.
The three-digit code for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline replaces the 10-digit number for what was formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Why this new line is crucial
The new three-digit number is easy to remember, free, available 24/7 and confidential, says Thea Gallagher, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
“If 988 becomes just as ubiquitous as 911, we are saying that mental health and physical health are on the same level, and that breaks stigma,” she adds.
The need for such access and services has never been greater, Gallagher shares.
“With the ongoing pandemic, we have seen an increase in depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and behavior, so we know mental health has never been more negatively impacted,” she notes.
In 2020, more than 47,000 Americans died by suicide, a 33% increase from 2000, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.
In 2021, 3.6 million people reached out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Dani Bennett, a press officer at the SAMHSA, tells SELF.
For Blacks, in particular, suicide rates have continued to increase during the pandemic with notable celebrities such as former Miss USA and attorney Cheslie Kryst, 30; “Walking Dead” star Moses Moseley, 31; and Ian Alexander, Jr., 26, son of Regina King, all taking their lives.
“Over the last decade, suicide rates in the United States have increased dramatically among racial and ethnic minorities, and Black Americans in particular. Suicide deaths occur across the lifespan and have increased for Black youth, but the highest rate of death is among Black Americans aged 25-34 years of age.” Rheeda Walker, professor of psychology and director of the University of Houston’s Culture, Risk and Resilience Lab., says.
Trained counselors will save lives
The new hotline will provide necessary updates to the services currently provided by the 1-800 number. The services provided by 988 will be “distinct from the public safety purposes of 911,” which are focused on dispatching fire, police, and EMS as needed. The main focus of the hotline will be to have trained experts respond to mental health emergencies rather than law enforcement who may be