988 national mental health hotline to launch next month

Health

NEW YORK (NewsNation) — A new three-digit hotline that could save lives is set to launch next month. If Americans dial or text 988, they’ll be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Every 11 minutes, someone takes their life in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some experts say America has a growing mental health crisis, especially among young people.

When 988 goes live next month, it will be the nation’s newest lifeline to combat one of America’s leading causes of death: suicide.

Starting July 16, people can text or call 988 and will have a direct connection to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

“The timing to have this been rolled out on July 16 nationwide is just wisdom,” said Dr. Maxine Bradshaw, department chair of psychology and counseling at Pillar College in New Jersey. “Research has always shown that the summer month, the completion of suicide rates increases.”

In 2020, 46,000 people died from suicide.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children between 15 and 19 years old. It’s the third leading cause of death for young Americans between 10 and 24 years old.

Research shows kids can have suicidal thoughts even before they’re 10.

“Children are especially at risk because they are not able to verbalize their feelings and their emotions as an adult would,” Bradshaw explained.

Experts hope 988 can help prevent more kids from dying and get them the help they need. But while the federal government mandated the new line, it’s up to states to determine how to pay for it.

So far, only Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington have passed legislation for funding.

South Carolina is not on the list. The state currently has one call center, taking up to 100 calls a day.  

When 988 launches, they’re expecting a surge, but they don’t have the money to hire more staff. So, those additional calls will be answered out of state, and that could take minutes in a situation where seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

“Is our youth going to wait those three minutes? Are they gonna stay on the phone,” said Jennifer Piver, CEO of Mental Health of America Greenville County, South Carolina.

Some states already had call centers set up and they’re just expanding the service to meet the demand of calls from people in crisis. Grants are also available for states to provide funding for their operational costs.

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