July 1, 2022
The 988 mental health crisis lifeline rolls out nationwide on July 16, 2022. This simple 3-digit phone number was established to make it easier for those experiencing emotional distress or a mental health crisis to reach counselors and receive support.
Dialing 988 will route calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is a network of more than 200 crisis centers throughout the United States. Whenever possible, the lifeline routes calls to local crisis call centers, with backup support provided by national call centers. The new 988 number will be available in addition to the number that is currently used to reach the lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
The lifeline is known for offering 24/7 support to anyone in crisis or distress, and for providing resources to callers. But with the adoption of 988, these services will not only be more accessible, but they can expand and improve.
Calling or texting 988 will immediately connect you to trained counselors who will listen and provide crisis counseling. Local mental health services are often involved directly or through referrals for continuing care.
Note: The 988 calling and texting code will not be available everywhere until July 16, but help is still available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and by chat online.
At the beginning of June 2022, Governor Laura Kelly signed legislation to increase access to these services in Kansas. All Kansans will be able to call 988 for around-the-clock mental health crisis support, suicide prevention, and even for direct help from behavioral health teams.
This means that if the need arises, mobilized response units will be prepared to act in the event of a mental health emergency. Kansas-based mental health professionals and local crisis intervention services will be equipped to work together to help those in need as quickly as possible. The focus of in-person services provided by emergency teams will be de-escalation and stabilization.
[7/23/2022: According to KSPHQ, the capacity for mobilized response units is building, but this service will not be immediately available to all parts of Kansas]
The fact that 988 will be implemented throughout the US is meaningful. Just like 911, 988 is designed to save lives. The widespread adoption of 988 means that mental health crises are being fully recognized as a special class of emergency.
Mental health emergencies deserve immediate attention, but they are not always best served by dialing 911. The 911 system can certainly be used to get help during any medical emergency, fire, crime, or serious threat to safety. But deploying law enforcement, the fire department, or medical first responders may not be the most appropriate response in the event of a mental health crisis.
988, on the other hand, specifically exists to make essential and critical mental health resources more accessible. The lifeline will provide immediate access to qualified mental health providers during times of crisis.
Your safety and the safety of your loved ones is important! 988 is an important life-saving resource that can be added to your crisis plan (If you don’t have a crisis plan in place yet, NAMI provides a free crisis guide that includes a crisis plan worksheet along with information about mental health emergencies).
But keep in mind that calling 911 or visiting the emergency room is still an option. The most essential thing to remember is that help is always available. Do not hesitate to seek care.
A mental health crisis is defined as any emotional or mental state that renders you unable to cope with life or function effectively. A mental health emergency involves any situation in which a person’s mindset, feelings, or behavior presents a risk of harm to themselves or others. However, the terms “crisis,” “breakdown,” and “emergency” are often used interchangeably.
Whichever term you use, some serious signs of distress to look out for include:
The experience of a crisis can be personal and subjective. A mental health crisis may still be taking place if symptoms seem to be less severe, or if they are different from what is listed above.
Reaching out to 988 can help you, a friend, or a family member address a crisis and begin to recover. Have you memorized the number yet? Share the news with your friends and family. Teach your children and show your teens. Starting on July 16, dial 9-8-8 for mental and emotional help.
Remember that early intervention is always better than waiting for an emergency situation to develop. Seek help the moment you start to feel something is wrong. Bring up your concerns as soon as possible by contacting a helpline, opening up to someone you trust, or consulting your therapist.
You can learn more about the 988 lifeline in Kansas and get updates through Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ. In addition to 988, there are several free or low-cost resources available to support your mental health and wellbeing. Take a moment to save important contact information now so it is on hand in case of an emergency.
Contact Andrews & Associates Counseling if you have questions, or if you would like help navigating your mental health care options. We are here to help! ⯁
Former Director of Marketing and Communications at Andrews & Associates Counseling.