On July 16, a major change to the American mental health care system will be made when the National Suicide Prevention Hotline will transition to the new dialing code of 988. So, when someone calls 988 after July 16, they will connect with the crisis/suicide prevention system.
This hotline was designed to be a memorable number, like 911, that will directly connect people to immediate, accessible care and support for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress. That can be thoughts of suicide, mental health, a substance use crisis or any other kind of emotional distress. Also, people can also use this hotline if they are worried about a loved one.
“Suicide and substance abuse are two major issues that Americans are facing today,” said Commissioner Virginia Betteridge, liaison to the Camden County Mental Health Board. “With this transition, people can easily receive help by dialing three numbers, just as one would if they needed police or the fire department. This is just another measure we can take to save lives and prevent tragedy.”
According to NJ.gov, when calling 988, callers first hear a greeting message while their call is routed to the local Lifeline network crisis center based on the caller’s area code. Then, a trained crisis counselor will answer the phone, listen to the caller, understand how their problem is affecting them, provide support and share resources if needed. If the local crisis center is unable to take the call, the caller will be automatically routed to a national backup crisis center. The hotline provides live crisis center phone services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages for people who call. There are also text and online chat options for the hotline if people are not able to call.
On average, there are approximately 130 suicides per day in America, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. and in 2020 alone, 45,070 died by suicide. Additionally, from April 2020 to 2021, over 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses.
“We are losing too many people to suicide and drug addiction and it is undermining the life expectancy of adults throughout the nation,” Betteridge continued. “The only way to aid in this crisis is by making help readily available to all Americans and that is the goal with the new 988 hotline. We can stop these tragedies before they happen by providing those in need with quality, accessible resources.”