988- A Direct Connection for Crisis Mental Health Support
Article Written By: Judy Rooney, LCSW, Certified Mindset & Habit Coach, Behavioral Health, Tri-State Clearwater Medical
Have you heard about the new crisis support line for anyone experiencing a suicidal or mental health crises or emotional distress? Starting on July 16, 2022, if you dial 9-8-8 you will be connected with a Lifeline crisis counselor that will talk you through the distress you are experiencing. This number works anytime, anywhere around the nation, 24/7/365, and can be utilized by call, text, or chat. 988 is a confidential, free service, and will serve as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. While the long-standing Suicide Prevention Lifeline number will continue to work, 988 is easier to remember and dial.
Just as 911 is for emergency medical/safety situations, 988 is for mental health crises situations. 988 will provide a direct regional connection to compassionate, accessible care, and support for anyone who is experiencing mental health related distress, whether that is thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance abuse crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People worried about a loved one who may need crisis support can also utilize 988. If you call on behalf of someone else, counselors will offer guidance and information to navigate the mental health emergency.
This is an important and monumental development for re-imagining crisis support in our country, and helps address the de-stigmatization of accessing mental health resources. Crisis lines play a key role in the comprehensive public health strategy for suicide prevention. In the United States, from 1999 to 2017, the suicide rate increased by 33%. This is prior to the pandemic and the subsequent increase in social and substance abuse issues. I have heard from clients that talking to someone on the crisis line was critical to them working through their distress when they felt most alone.
Of course, as a therapist, I think there is nothing better than having someone you can really talk things out with. Loneliness is the number one reported mental health complaint across all age ranges in this country right now. Building this crisis line into the societal infrastructure is taking all of us one step closer to restoring the care of each other and saving lives. When someone is in a mental health crisis, often times they are not thinking clearly, and have difficulty seeing their options. The crisis line is staffed with trained personnel who are prepared to handle a wide range of mental health issues, including self-harm, addiction, and suicidal ideation. At a conference I attended a few years ago (before the pandemic), I had the opportunity to speak with a crisis line counselor. Part of her motivation for being on the other end of the phone line is because she had received support herself from calling the crisis line as a young woman. Suicide is preventable. No one should feel alone when they are in crisis.