988 is the New Number to Call for Help with Suicides
People who are experiencing mental distress can dial just three numbers to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Anyone in the United States can text or call 988 to reach trained counselors who can help them cope with a mental health emergency and direct them to additional resources for mental health and substance abuse treatment. The Lifeline’s existing 1-800 number (1-800-273-8255) still works, but the service has gotten a makeover and will now be better able to address general mental health concerns and emotional distress, as well as suicide crises.
According to an article in the New York Times, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration launched the first suicide prevention hotline in 2005. But officials worried that in a crisis the 11-digit phone number would be too hard to remember. The new 988 number is meant to provide a simpler way to get assistance, much like the 911 emergency number that most people are familiar with.
A 988 Task Force was created in Missouri in 2020. Missouri’s seven Lifeline centers will handle all contacts made in the state. It is estimated that more than 258,000 Missouri contacts will be made to the Lifeline during its first year of implementation.
Anyone experiencing a mental health or substance abuse issue can call 988, or people can call on behalf of someone else. School district personnel and members of a district’s safety team should be aware of the new number, and districts may want to consider publicizing the number to students.
More information about 988 can be obtained by emailing Casey Muckler (of the Missouri Department of Mental Health) at Casey.Muckler@dmh.mo.gov.