New Nat’l Suicide Prevention Lifeline starting July 16th

In this Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. Quick help for suicidal thoughts and other mental health emergencies may soon be as easy as 9-8-8. The United States’ first nationwide three-digit mental health crisis hotline goes live on Saturday, July 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

In this Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. Quick help for suicidal thoughts and other mental health emergencies may soon be as easy as 9-8-8. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

OAN NEWSROOM
UPDATED 6:12 PM PT – Friday, July 15, 2022

A new suicide prevention lifeline is launching nationwide. Starting Saturday, the code 988 will be available for call or text as the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline. The line will remain open around the clock and anyone who wants to talk about their struggles can speak to a trained counselor.

“Our goal is to make 988 like 911,” Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “If you are willing to turn to someone in your moment of crisis, someone will be there. 988 won’t be a busy signal. 988 will get you help. That is the goal.” 

At the same time, advocates hope the renewed focus on emergency assistance and the spending that has accompanied it will prompt expansion of other mental health services that are in desperately short supply in many communities.

“I look at 988 as a starting place where we can really re-imagine mental health care,” said Hannah Wesolowski, chief advocacy officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We’re really looking at a fundamental tide shift in how we respond to people in mental health crisis.”

The number of suicides in the United States rose steadily from 29,350 in 2000 to 48,344 in 2018 before declining to 45,979 in 2020, according to the National Center on Health Statistics. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and other factors, government and health officials agree that the country is in the grip of a mental health crisis, especially among younger people with sharply rising rates of depression and anxiety.

The lifeline has been in operation under a ten digit number since 2005 and has reportedly taken over 20 million calls since. Officials predict those numbers are going to increase with the transition to a three digit number.

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