Behavioral Healthcare

988: A Suicide Prevention Leap Forward

Integrated Psychiatric Consultants | January 31, 2021


Now more than ever, mental and behavioral health has been thrust into the spotlight, which has benefited people through better accessibility, accountability, and treatment options within the United States. One of these facets serving the community by reducing health burdens for over twelve million people since 2005 is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Although the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has saved countless lives, a pitfall remains within their long 10-digit number 1-800-273-8255. The number can be difficult to remember during a mental health emergency. With crisis centers throughout the country seeing an influx in calls due to COVID, a person can be on hold for a substantial amount of time.

The good news regarding this difficult to remember phone number is on October 17th, 2020, the President signed a bipartisan bill which officially created the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 988. 988 paralleling 911 creates a convenient and memorable phone number that allows expedited treatment by reaching out to a hotline member quicker. This new law will benefit not only individuals but crisis centers as well. The 988 hotlines’ addition brings new funding, which equates to more individuals in crisis centers handling a larger call volume and serving a more significant number of people.

Although the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will not be operational until July 2022, individuals already see the overwhelming potential in 988. An area of potential is healthcare workers in which the hotline can alleviate the burden on emergency departments who deal with the bulk of mental health crises. 988 will accomplish the task by assessing and conversing with a distressed individual that could lead to a visit from a social worker instead of a ride in an ambulance.

The new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will contribute to more individuals receiving convenient care that they need and deserve, and most importantly, 988 will save lives.

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