The federal government went live with the new 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline on July 16, 2022. 988 is one of the first steps in creating a streamlined crisis care intervention for those experiencing a mental health crisis.
988: Three Digits to Hope
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34. It is estimated that someone dies from suicide every 11 minutes. Often when people are experiencing a mental health crisis, they, their loved ones, or bystanders reach out to 911. 911 was not designed to intervene in mental health crisis situations. Involving 911 often leads to unnecessary arrests or creates a more traumatic experience for the individual in crisis because police are the first responders dispatched by 911.
Over the last several years, due in large to the COVID pandemic, suicidal ideation and attempts are on the forefront of healthcare workers. Long hours, repeat exposure to trauma and death, and exposure to deadly pathogens are some of the top reasons healthcare workers are vulnerable to suicide. According to JAMA Psychiatry the risk of suicide in nurses is greater than that of the general population. Suicide is a problem for all, but healthcare workers are particularly vulnerable.
News you can use: The new 988-dialing code is more than just an easy-to-remember number—it’s a direct connection to accessible care and support for people experiencing mental health-related distress. Going Live on July 16! Learn more: https://t.co/k25SBtABuR pic.twitter.com/Z96xT5T7pC— Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) July 13, 2022
(I Thought You Were Going to Tell Me Something Good?)
So what’s the good news? 988 is a manageable number to remember and will replace the current suicide hotline number (1-800-273-TALK). Those who need help won’t have to remember a long stream of numbers and once dialed, they are connected to a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Counselor. These are counselors specifically trained to handle mental health crises.
The other good news? Data shows that 98% of mental health crisis calls handled by trained professionals do not require first responder intervention. Of the 2% that require this, the caller often agrees to the intervention and cooperates with first responders. This results in a better experience for the person in need and less strain on 911 and first responder services.
So while suicide statistics are grim, there is hope. 988 is the first step in ensuring anyone experiencing a mental health crisis can access help and connect to the right responder. Let’s celebrate this first step in addressing mental health for our country and get the word out to our clinician community!