U.S. launches 988: the mental health version of 911

U.S. launches 988: the mental health version of 911.

Americans can now dial 988 amid a mental health crisis, akin to 911 for medical or law enforcement emergencies. The hotline went live on July 16 in an effort to improve access to psychiatric care.

Individuals in need can call or text 988 to speak with trained counselors who listen and understand what is affecting them and provide support and resources. The easier-to-remember number redirects to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Studies have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking with a Lifeline counselor. The original lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, remains active.

“I hope this hotline becomes a resource for those who feel shame and embarrassment about their experience or are too scared to tell someone they know,” says Alicia Glenn, AMFT, a clinical therapist at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health. “This specialized line may also decrease the fear of seeking help and having police respond when all you needed was someone to talk to.”

Glenn provides treatment to at-risk youth who self-harm or have suicidal ideation through the Loma Linda University Health’s Shield youth program. She teaches coping skills and creates safety plans with adolescent patients and their family members, working to normalize the process of addressing mental health issues. “There is no shame in seeking help,” she says.

Glenn says people often refrain from calling a suicide hotline because they are worried police will be contacted or they’re taking away resources for another person who they might perceive is having a more serious crisis.

“I hope that people going through mental health crises, who aren’t necessarily suicidal, will call 988,” Glenn says.

If you or a loved one need specialized mental health care, learn more about the adult and youth programs at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health.