Creation of the New 9-8-8 Suicide Hotline

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has created a new 3-digit dialing code to connect callers to the nationwide suicide prevention hotline for mental health crises. Just like we’re trained from childhood to call 9-1-1 for immediate assistance with fire, health or safety emergencies, now 9-8-8 is designed to be a resource for immediate mental health emergencies, people at risk of suicide and other crises. The number will be open to help those in crisis find the support and resources they need.

What is the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline?

The new 9-8-8 strives to be a free, confidential suicide prevention number and crisis line for people experiencing any type of mental distress. Previously, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was an eleven digit 1-800 number.

Changing to the three-digit code, there’s hope that those reaching out for mental health emergencies will become a routine, stigma-free response to mental health crises. You can call, text, or chat online and receive help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has offered life- saving support and received nearly 2.4 million calls in 2020. Those who call the 9-8-8 hotline will connect directly with a 24/7 crisis call center offering trained professionals and free immediate help. Rerouting mental health crises from 9-1-1 is another positive result of launching the 9-8-8 hotline. Those needing mental health support will find the more specific assistance they need when they call the new number, as the respondents are trained and equipped to handle mental health situations.

Things to keep in mind about the new number and its resources:

Think you won’t need 9-8-8? Someone you care about might. The U.S. has one death by suicide about every 11 minutes. For people aged 10 – 34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death. Additionally, from April 2020 to 2021, over 100,000 individuals died from drug overdoses. Even if you don’t think you’ll need the 9-8-8 hotline, someone you care about may need it. You can also call the line on behalf of someone else. If a loved one has expressed a desire to harm themselves or is experiencing a mental health crisis, you can reach out for support and helpful information.

9-8-8 offers support beyond suicide prevention and can be helpful for any kind of mental distress, including substance abuse. The long-term vision for 9-8-8 is a national crisis care response system that links callers to community based providers for a full range of crisis care services, as well as tools and resources to help prevent future crises. The 9-8-8 hotline aims for accessibility and inclusivity. The line offers communication options in 150 languages for call, text or chat. Trained counselors staff the hotline with experience and expertise in deescalating crises. This professional training can be a crucial in a serious situation.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline

Over the years, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline revealed that those who called the suicide prevention number were helped and felt less likely to harm themselves.

With the switch to 9-8-8, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has the opportunity to make a significant impact and expand to help those facing a variety of mental health crises. The mental health crisis continues to grow across the country, as an increasing number of adults are seeking treatment for mental illness.

How Can You Help Prevent Suicide?

There are many things caregivers, family and friends can do to support those around them who experience depression, suicidal thoughts and mental health challenges of other kinds. Here are several impactful strategies you can take to be part of the support system. Check In. Mental health can have its ups and downs depending on circumstances and physical health. You can be an essential part of a support system by checking in with compassion. What behaviors are you seeing? Have habits or routines drastically changed? Often, reaching out for help is most difficult when it’s most needed. So make it a point to ask a loved one how they’re doing and be prepared to listen. It can be helpful to share encouraging words and a verbal reminder that you’re available for support.

Find helpful resources. As you educate yourself on mental health, you’ll likely come upon resources that may help the person you know in need. Could they benefit from mental health treatment? With these resources and more in hand, you’ll be prepared to offer the assistance needed when the time is right.

Talk about it. By sharing positive mental health messages, you can help remove the stigma. Share helpful articles and resources. Listen to the struggles of those around you and encourage them to seek professional help. Reassure them that they’re not alone. You can make a difference when someone around you is suffering and needs support.