988 new suicide prevention lifeline

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) phone number is transitioning to 988, which makes for a much simpler number to remember for those who need it.

When those individuals need it, someone has to pick up because it could be a matter of life and death. The 988 number was activated on Saturday, July 16.

The transition from the still current lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255, stems from a U.S. Congress bill titled “Implementation of the National Suicide Lifeline Improvement Act of 2018.” The number was set to change through that bill in order to “aid rapid access to suicide prevention and mental health support services,” according to the Federal Communications Commission’s website.

However, 1-800-273-8255 will still work as the lifeline’s number for the foreseeable future, according to the website for the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Calls, chats, and texts made to the lifeline combined for a total of 9,889,574 contacts from 2018 to 2020, according to the SAMHSA appropriations report.

The lifeline began answering texts on Aug. 10, 2020. Despite the late inclusion of texts that year, there were still 34,166 texts made to the lifeline.

The Hoquiam Police Department sent out information on Facebook about the lifeline’s phone number change.

“This transition is an important step to strengthening and transforming the crisis care continuum in the U.S.,” HPD’s post states.

The transition to 988, at least at this juncture, is an addition to the existing lifeline number, according to Laina Caldwell, behavioral health navigator for the Hoquiam Police Department.

“From what I understand, 988 is looking to eventually replace the go-to number for people with suicidal thoughts and ideation,” Caldwell said.

One reason for 988 being an addition instead of a replacement is if someone were to call 1-800-873-8255, they need to be able to reach the lifeline. If the original number is the only one they know, it needs to work.

”They don’t want (the callers) to get a ‘doo-doo-doo’” said Caldwell in imitating the “disconnected” dial tone.

Caldwell also explained the biggest help the 988 number brings.

“It’s that it’s mental health professionals answering the calls and that you will be connected locally,” she said.

If the local professionals are not available, it might go to a professional in a different state, but the caller won’t be put on hold. They should be able to immediately communicate with someone versed in mental health, according to Caldwell.

“Not just someone who’s gone through a two-week training course answering the phone,” she said.

According to the post, the lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and text, and how that number is expected to at least double within the first full year after the lifeline number changes to 988.

The post was made in order to help SAMHSA’s effort to inform of the lifeline’s phone number change. The number change will be aided by an addition of downloadable print files for wallet cards, magnets, and posters to the lifeline’s 988 Partner Toolkit.

Type https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/partner-toolkit on any internet search bar for more information about the partner toolkit.

“SAMHSA recognizes the need for governments, states, territories, tribes, crisis centers, and partners to speak with one voice to ensure there is a clear understanding about what 988 is and how it will work,” according to the SAMHSA website. “We encourage you to use these communication outreach materials and build upon them with your community coalitions to meet the needs of your specific audiences.”

Military veterans, and those concerned about a military veteran, who need to access the Veterans Crisis Line can also call 988. Once they dial that number, press 1 in order to chat live, or text 838255.

As of July 16, the NSPL crisis center will continue to operate their services in accordince with the lifeline standards and connect with 911 services and regional crisis services as usual, according to HPD’s post.