Crisis assistance is now three digits away
Previously the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline connect callers to a network of more than 200 crisis centers that are ready to help individuals suffering from mental health-related issues.
Seeing the stranglehold that mental health issues maintained around the country, the FCC launched plans for an easy-to-remember dial code similar to 911, the code used to contact emergency services nationwide. The Lifeline also includes a redirect to the Veteran’s Crisis Line.
“988 is more than a number, it is a message: we’re there for you. Through this and other actions, we are treating mental health as a priority and putting crisis care in reach for more Americans,” said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) director Xavier Becerra.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration under the HHS sees the implementation of this switch to a more easily recognized number as the first step towards a more intuitive crisis care system in America. 988 sets itself apart from the growing number of online therapy sites like BetterHelp by offering 24/7 access and being completely free of charge (though standard rates may apply to those who text the Lifeline)
The transition signals a growing dedication by the federal government to tackle the growing issue of mental health, with the Biden-Harris Administration increasing investments from $24 million to $432 million. The program had previously been left unfunded and critically under-resourced in comparison to the rising number of mental health issues in the US.
Suicide remains the second leading cause of death among college students according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Resources like 988 and the on-campus Counseling Center are free of charge and are readily available to help address any mental and psychiatric problems that students have.