‘Lives will be saved’: Experts applaud launch of 988 mental health crisis hotline

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Marilyn Parker, Reporter
Staff, News4JAX
Lindsey Tanner
Associated Press
Published: 
Updated: 
Marilyn Parker, Reporter
Staff, News4JAX
Lindsey Tanner
Associated Press
As the United States’ first nationwide three-digit mental health crisis hotline goes live on Saturday, experts have called it “one of the most exciting things that has happened” in mental health care.
As opposed to dialing a long 1-800 number, now people in distress can dial 9-8-8. It’s faster, easier to remember, and they’ll speak with trained mental health counselors.
Congress passed the bill in 2020 designating 9-8-8 as the 3-digit crisis number and then-President Donald Trump signed it into law.
RELATED: New 988 hotline is the 911 for mental health emergencies
Calls to the old lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, will still go through even with 988 in place.
“If we can get 988 to work like 911 … lives will be saved,’’ said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
When a mental health counselor answers, they assess the individual’s situation, deescalate, and then find resources in their community to help them.
The federal government gave more than $280 million for mobile mental health crisis teams that can go to people’s homes and emergency mental health centers.
Dr. Christine Cauffield with LSF Health Systems, a group that provides mental health services, says the three-digit number is going to benefit so many people and shared some signs that people shouldn’t hesitate to call the number.
“If you’re feeling suicidal, thinking about harming yourself or someone else. If you’re very depressed and feeling that life is not worth living, if you’re feeling very anxious, and feel like there’s no help available, whatever those thoughts are that are causing you to stress, causing you to not want to get up out of bed, causing interference with family relationships, or with job responsibilities, it’s time to reach out and get some help,” Cauffield said.
News4JAX Insiders say this is the change that is needed.
“I think we need to try anything! If it saves ONE life, it’s worth it. My family has been touched by suicide, twice. It is no longer a hidden problem, it’s affecting us all,” a News4JAX Insider told us.
Another Insider said, “The new easier-to-remember number is a good idea but there need to be better-trained resources on the other end of the line for it to provide benefit for those that truly need it.”
Cauffield says in cases where someone needs in-person assistance, the clinician will deploy the LSF Health mobile response team, which is set up in our area and in every county that they serve.
News4JAX reached out and is waiting to learn who’s on the mobile response teams, especially when it comes to higher-risk situations.
Cauffield also says trained counselors will know who to send and that the hotline can serve as support for multiple forms of mental health.
“I think that this 988 hotline will be able to serve individuals that are truly thinking about taking their lives at the moment or harming others because oftentimes suicidals thoughts and homicidal thoughts intertwine,” Cauffield said.
We understand this is not an easy topic to discuss, but we want to know if you think the new 988 number will make a difference and possibly save lives.
If you have been helped in the past by a call to a mental health crisis hotline, we want to know what you think of the new nationwide three-digit hotline and whether it will lead to more people reaching out for help when they need it.
Please use the form below to share your thoughts with us.
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