(NewsGlobal.com)- A new emergency number that works like 911 is set to be available for all Americans starting this Saturday.
The new number is called the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. By simply dialing 988, people can be connected directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, just as they can be connected to other emergency services when they dial 911.
This three-digit number will be much easier for people to remember if they are indeed experiencing a crisis, rather than the hotline’s full number, 800-273-8255. It’s also much better than having people search online for the correct number.
Local officials are partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to roll out the service starting on Saturday. In Maryland, for example, the local department is called the Community Crisis Services Inc., or CCSI.
The CCSI takes any calls that roll over if the national hotline is busy, or if the hotline is experienced a big backlog of calls due to a lot of people requesting their help or because of staffing issues.
Tim Jansen, who serves as the chief executive officer of the CCSI located in Hyattsville, Maryland, said that the transition to a three-digit number for the crisis hotline is revolutionary — especially at a time when their services are needed more than ever.
Just last month, Jansen’s lifeline interacted with 50,000 additional people than they did in June 2021. They do so not just through phone calls, but also via text messages and online chats.
The chief clinical officer for CCSI, Erica Turner, commented:
“We know callers feel more safe and more mentally stable after speaking with a lifeline counselor. Our trained call specialists, they listen, they provide support, and they offer resources.”
There are in excess of 200 crisis centers that are part of this network across the country, according to Dr. John Draper, who serves as National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s executive director, as well as the executive vice president of national networks for Vibrant Emotional Health.
He commented recently:
“All of this is being made possible by investments at the federal level, to some degree at the local level, and most importantly, by the crisis services counselors who are doing the hard work, who are basically our mental health systems first responders.
“They are welcoming people who contact us walking into the psychic burning buildings and escorting them to a safe place where they can find hope and healing.”
Mental health issues were already on the rise before the pandemic began in 2020, but the problem accelerated after it began. According to the organization Mental Health America, 4.58% of all adults reported having serious thoughts of suicide last year. That was an increase of 664,000 people from just the year before.
In addition, the rate of adults having suicidal thoughts has increased every year since back in 2011-2012. But, last year’s increase was one of the largest year-over-year increases in the history of the MHA’s report