Dial 988 to get help for a mental health crisis; it’s the new nationally available 911 for suicidal thoughts and more

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Help for suicidal thoughts or other mental health emergencies is now available by dialing or texting 988, the nationwide three-digit mental health crisis hotline that went live today.

It’s a number that routes callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. While some areas in the nation have already been connected to 988, this dialing code was made available to everyone across the United States starting at midnight, July 16.

Instead of a dispatcher sending police, firefighters, or paramedics, 988 connects callers with trained mental health counselors.

In 2020, Congress designated 988 as the new dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network of local call centers, staffed by trained crisis counselors. 

988 provides support for anyone experiencing mental health related distress, including thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, according to the State of Alaska’s information website. The Lifeline is billed as free and confidential, with operators who treat callers with respect and listen without judgment. 

If you are calling about a friend or family member who is in distress, the person on the 988 line will walk you through how to help and provide resources.

Alaska and the nation are experiencing a mental health crisis, according to the Department of Health, which cites these statistics:

  • In Alaska in 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 10-19, and for youth ages 10-14.  Suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death overall for all Alaska youth and young adults, ages 15-34. 
  • According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019, over 1 in 3 Alaska high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row; 25% seriously considered attempting suicide; and nearly 20% attempted suicide. 
  • Suicide is most often preventable. For every person who dies by suicide annually, there are 316 people who seriously consider suicide but do not kill themselves. 
  • Over 90% of people who attempt suicide go on to live out their lives. 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Hopefully, Bill Walker, Lisa Murkowski, and Sarah Palin will keep 988 close to them on the campaign trail. They’re all overdue for a breakdown.

  2. If you’re not put “ on hold”
    You’ll probably get a moon-lighting drag queen trying to get the preteen to call them on there personal phone….

  3. How many counselors do we have? Who are these counselors? Who is paying for all this? (I have a good guess). The police will still end up being dispatched.

    • The people who staff these crisis lines are folks from around the country who volunteer their time and undergo many hours of training to start and many hours of continuing training while they volunteer. And they are never paid to do it.

      After my mom retired, she volunteered and would spend 6-8 hour shifts either texting or speaking with people who were in distress.

      She would only be scheduled to work for a few hours, but would see that there were 200 calls/text conversations and only 50 people to take them and would work past her shift.

      She had to quit after six months of doing it because she would be exhausted from speaking with these depressed or angry people.

  4. Alaska is emotional trauma central. Merely having emotional mood swings does not make one mentally ill. Also, some humans may be more emotionally expressive than others for comparison Italians relative to Austrians. The less expressive may actually be more often diagnosablly mentally ill with schizophrenia, dissociative and personality disordered. I don’t think this is well intended. Best advice is traveling out of Alaska often.

  5. Veterans press 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line. This takes the place of the old Veterans Crisis Line. However, the old number call and text will stay active for a while.

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