Something to be proud of: New York has officially implemented a new three-digit number to call or text that will directly connect citizens to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number is 988.
Although a nation-wide phone number, anyone calling the number 988 from a New York area code will be connected to one of the state’s crisis centers (there are 13 of them up and running already, with two more in the works). Folks may even access a chat feature through the website 988lifeline.org or text the number to get help.
“Too many people experience suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress without the support and care they need,” reads a release by the Federal Communications Commission. “There are urgent mental health realities driving the need for crisis service transformation across our country. In 2020 alone, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes—and for people aged 10-34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death.”
Congress designated the new line back in 2020 but the effort has just launched this past weekend in New York with officials imagining the hotline will be used by people in substance use crisis or by those dealing with thoughts of suicide, for example.
“Supporting New Yorkers with accessible mental health care and support is critical, especially in light of the challenges exacerbated by the pandemic,” said New York City Council speaker Adrienne Adams in an official statement about the update. “This new dialing code serves as an alternative to 911 for mental health crises, which will result in a more appropriate response for those seeking assistance.”
The idea is pretty straightforward: until now, plenty of people looking for help would dial 911, therefore reaching individuals in the law enforcement world that wouldn’t necessarily know how to address certain issues.
The new hotline will, instead, connect called with trained counselors, therefore reducing the use of law enforcement and providing more cost-effective early intervention solutions. Ideally, the project would also help end the stigma towards people seeking mental health aid.
Needless to say: if you are in a crisis, don’t be ashamed to dial 988. Someone will pick up and help you.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.