Dial 988: National suicide prevention hotline launches countrywide

BOSTON — The country has a national number that is easy to remember and easily dialed when someone is in a mental health crisis, such as having suicidal thoughts.

Americans who are concerned about the mental health of a loved one will be able to dial 9-8-8 and get rapid, free, trained, and confidential help.

The service works 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When someone dials 988, they will first hear an automated message for additional options while a call is routed to a local crisis center, where a trained crisis worker will answer. They will listen to you to understand what is happening, provide support and get you help you may need.

The lifeline also provides information on specific topics such as maternal mental health, help for veterans, assistance for people in the LGBTQ+ community and even during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government has paid more than $280 million to help states set up their systems.

In 2019, Moulton and Utah Congressman Chris Stewart introduced the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. That legislation passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law the following year, paving the way for the creation of the new 9-8-8 hotline.

In a statement, Moulton said, “We set out to create a three-digit mental health hotline because every American needs to know it is okay to reach out for help, and we need to know how to get that help if we are in need. Just as we all know to call 9-1-1 if our house is on fire, we will soon be able to call 9-8-8 if we or our loved ones are experiencing a mental health crisis. Too many Americans die by suicide each year because they just don’t know how to get help. 9-8-8 will change that—it will save lives on day one.”

One in five adults and one-in-six children experiences mental illness each year in the United States, according to the National Mental Health Alliance.

Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for young people in our country.

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