By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
A new lifesaving initiative has recently started that involves the use of a new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which replaced the former National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This new 988 Lifeline has several advantages:
- The shorter number is much easier for callers to remember during a time of crisis
- The line is available 24/7
- It provides free, confidential support for people who are in distress
This new resource will be important in mitigating mental health crises and preventing suicides. Operators of the 988 Lifeline can connect callers or their loved ones with suicide prevention resources and other resources to aid with mental health mental health emergencies.
Local Crisis Centers Man the Lifeline
According to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline website, the 988 Lifeline is operated by a national network of local crisis centers. These crisis centers use staff members trained in providing emotional support to people who are suicidal or experiencing emotional distress.
Over 200 local crisis centers comprise the 988 Lifeline network. They receive continuous consultation and guidance from national experts in suicide prevention, consumer advocates, and various committees.
Suicide Is a Major Problem in the United States
Often, people who experience suicidal thoughts are overwhelmed and struggling to cope with various stressors. These stressors can include mental health issues, financial problems, relationship problems, workplace challenges and a lack of satisfaction in life. But the 988 Lifeline counselors can save a life by in real time connecting with people who may be viewing suicide as an outlet for their problems.
Suicide is a major problem in the United States; in fact, suicide is the 12th highest cause of death in the United States. For instance, there were an estimated 1.2 million suicide attempts with 45,979 Americans that died from suicide in 2020.
Sadly, anyone can be at risk of suicide if they do not utilize the proper resources. Among teenagers, suicide by gun has risen to its highest point in 20 years, and the rate of young people committing suicide has increased faster than any other age group.
How the 988 Lifeline Works
The 988 Lifeline should be used by anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, feelings of suicide or substance use crises. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, people contacting the 988 Lifeline will first hear a greeting while their call is routed to a local crisis center based on the caller’s area code. The call will then be answered by a crisis counselor trained in providing support and resources to people in crisis.
The 988 Lifeline’s crisis services can be provided in over 250 languages through the Language Line Solutions program, and a chat feature is also available through the Lifeline’s website. Depending on the situation, the 988 Lifeline may work in conjunction with 911 emergency services when necessary. In addition, it will also reduce 911 police calls when someone contacts the Lifeline for resources and support but is not in immediate danger.