February 2, 2023

My Henessy

Masters of Health

10 things to know about the 988 mental health crisis line

3 min read

There’s now officially a mental health version of 911.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline launched with the purpose of connecting anyone with suicidal thoughts, a mental health episode or any sort of emotional distress with trained counselors who’ll provide immediate counseling and mental health referrals.

Here are 10 things you should know about the new service.

1. It’s easy to reach

You can call or text 988, or send an online chat message. Friends or loved ones can also call or text on someone else’s behalf.

2. Goodbye, 1-800-273-TALK

988 will replace the existing 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL), 1-800-273-8255, which has been around since 2005. (Yes, this one).

3. It fills a role 911 couldn’t effectively serve

988 is designed to be more efficient, targeted and safer than calling 911 in a mental health crisis. Callers to 911 can face long response times or be sent to emergency rooms when they really need mental healthcare. 911 responders can also be too quick to send police intervention when it’s not required.

Sadly, there are many, many, many examples of the unnecessary arrests and violence that ensue when armed law enforcement are the first responders in mental health emergencies. Two million people with serious mental illness were booked in jail in 2021, and nearly a quarter of fatal shootings by police in recent years have involved mental health crises, as Ben Miller of Well Being Trust told NPR.

4. … But don’t forget 911

While 988 covers substance-related mental health struggles, if you or a loved one are overdosing or need immediate medical help, you should still call 911.

5. 988 was motivated by the pandemic

The number helps address a dire need for mental health intervention. Suicide, anxiety and depression all spiked during the pandemic. Suicide was the 12th leading cause of death for Americans in 2020, a year during which someone died of suicide every 11 minutes.

6. It will include in-person interventions

Nine in 10 suicidal episodes can be de-escalated over the phone, but administrators are also investing in trained mobile crisis teams to dispatch for in-person interventions.

7. Lawmakers on both sides are behind it

The funding comes from a mix of local, state and federal resources. The hotline came out of a bipartisan bill passed in 2020 and is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s the first major government investment in mental health services in decades.

8. There will be kinks

Advocates say callers to 1-800-TALK were sometimes put on hold or dropped from calls. The new funding will go toward increasing staff, but public health officials acknowledge that the transition won’t be seamless. The goal is to eventually answer 95% of all calls within 20 seconds.

9. Emergency services may be contacted in extreme circumstances

In rare cases, where a caller is at risk of harm to themselves or others, 988 will contact emergency services on behalf of a caller.

Operators hope to avoid calling emergency services  and instead rely on safety plans made with callers’ loved ones and their own mobile crisis teams. Officials noted that interactions with law enforcement can be especially stressful, traumatizing or dangerous for queer and BIPOC people, in part because of profiling and bias. Black people are more than three times as likely as white people to be killed during a police encounter. Officials say emergency services are contacted during only a small fraction of calls, and in more than half of those cases, it will happen with the callers’ consent.

10. Suicide hotlines work

The good news is suicide hotlines are really, really effective. A 2017 study of 550 callers who contacted the hotline found from follow-up calls that the lifeline helped prevent nearly 80% of people from committing suicide. This new hotline isn’t perfect, but it’s a starting point and an opportunity to start patching the holes in our mental healthcare system — starting with the most dire situations.

View the original article at Chegg Life

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