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The new 988 crisis number is about to launch. Here's what to know. [NPR.org]

 

Jenny Kane/AP

By Rhitu Chatterjee, NPR.org

Starting July 16, people in mental health crisis will have a new way to reach out for help. Instead of dialing the current 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, they can simply call or text the numbers 9-8-8.

Modeled after 911, the new 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is designed to be a memorable and quick number that connects people who are suicidal or in any other mental health crisis to a trained mental health professional.

"If you are willing to turn to someone in your moment of crisis, 988 will be there," said Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services, at a recent press briefing. "988 won't be a busy signal, and 988 won't put you on hold. You will get help."

The primary goal of the new number is to make it easier for people to call for help. But lawmakers and mental health advocates see this as an opportunity to transform the mental health care system and make behavioral health care easily accessible everywhere in the United States.

Here is what you need to know about the new number and what to expect once it launches.

988 fills a big gap in mental health crisis care

Currently, the majority of people experiencing a mental health emergency end up dialing 911.

The problem is that 911 wasn't set up to address mental health needs. Either callers end up in a frenetic emergency room, waiting for hours and sometimes days to get care, or they end up interacting with law enforcement, which can lead to tragedy or trauma.

Mental health advocates hope that 988 will become a widely known, safer and more effective alternative.

To read the rest of this article, go to: https://www.npr.org/sections/h...icide-hotline-number

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