By Mary O’KEEFE
Californians have joined the rest of the nation in another way to access mental health professionals. They can dial or text 988.
By calling or texting 988, the caller will be connected with a mental health professional with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“Too many people experience suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress without the support and care they need. There are urgent mental health realities driving the need for crisis service transformation across our country. In 2020 alone, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes – and for people aged 10-34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death,” according to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that help thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day. The centers are supported by local and state sources as well as the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The 988 lifeline will provide confidential support 24/7 to people in suicide crisis or mental health-related distress.
In addition veterans, after dialing 988, can press “1” to connect directly to the Veterans Crisis Lifeline, which serves U.S. veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members and those who support them. For those who want to text, veterans should continue to text the Veterans Crisis Lifeline short code: 838255.
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is in support of the new 988 program.
“I do think having a more easily recognizable number to remember will be a major benefit,” said Jason Romero with NAMI Glendale.
The National Suicide Prevention Line used to be an 800 number. Romero said it was encouraging that 988 is a national effort rather than an effort community by community.
“Anyone can dial 988 and hopefully it will save some lives,” he said.
This is a good first step in mental health wellness.
“We still need to push for more,” he said, including more mobile crisis units like those working with law enforcement departments including Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.
He added there is still a social stigma when it comes to those dealing with serious mental illness.
The fact that there is a special system for veterans is also something Romero sees as a positive step, especially because it is not just limited to veterans but also to their family and friends.
“Anyone can call, any family member [or caregiver],” he said.