New ‘988′ suicide hotline rolls out to help with mental health emergencies

Published: Jul. 17, 2022 at 8:34 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - People experiencing mental health emergencies will only have to dial three numbers now – 988.

“In 2020, Congress passed national legislation that designated the FCC to change the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to a three-digit easy to remember number, 988,” said Mississippi Department of Mental Health Chief of Staff Katie Storr.

Officials with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health say the three-digit crisis line is needed now more than ever.

“In Mississippi, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death and the third leading cause of death among young people,” Storr said. “So this line, the vision of it, it is going to transform behavioral health crisis care because you’re going to have the three-digit easy to remember number that people can call much in the same way like they use 911 for emergencies, but this will be for health crisis’.

Brenda Patterson is the executive director of Contact the Crisis Line, which serves as a call center for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here in Mississippi.

“When someone calls 988 or the suicide prevention 1-800 number, it is routed based upon the area code to the closest helpline,” said Patterson. “That way it is going to be someone else, and that way it’s going to be someone local that is going to be taking a call, and if they need to be connected with another resource, they can because that crisis counselor is going to know all the local resources that they can take advantage of.”

Along with the three-digit code, there are also text and online chat options for emotional support.

“As far as chat, there are several different ways,” Patterson said. “You currently go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website and click on check now, and it immediately connects you with a chat specialist that will be able to help you. You can also text the 988 number, and it will also connect you as well.”

Last year, this call center received thousands of calls. They expect that to double with this new 988 number. The local center has even expanded to handle the increase.

“Do not hesitate and use 988. You don’t have to be thinking about suicide to utilize 988. It is for anyone feeling like they need some additional emotional support. It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way,” said Patterson.

Want more WLBT news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Copyright 2022 WLBT. All rights reserved.