(Camden, NJ) – This Saturday, a major change will be made to the US mental health care system when the National Suicide Prevention Hotline switches to the new dialing code of 988. So when someone calls 988 after July 16 , it connects with the crisis/suicide prevention system.
This helpline was designed to be a memorable number, like 911, that will connect people directly to immediate and accessible care and support for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress. It could be suicidal thoughts, mental health issues, a substance abuse crisis, or any other type of emotional distress. Additionally, people can also use this hotline if they are worried about a loved one.
“Suicide and addiction are two major issues facing Americans today,” said Commissioner Virginia Betteridge, liaison with the Camden County Board of Mental Health. “With this transition, people can easily receive help by dialing three numbers, just as one would if they needed the police or the fire department. This is just another step we can take to save lives and prevent tragedies.
According to NJ.gov, when calling 988, callers first hear a greeting while their call is routed to the local Lifeline Network Crisis Center based on the caller’s area code. Then, a trained crisis counselor will answer the phone, listen to the caller, understand how their issue affects them, provide support and share resources if needed. If the local crisis center is unable to take the call, the caller will automatically be routed to a national backup crisis center. The hotline provides live crisis center telephone services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages to callers. There are also text and online chat options for the hotline if people can’t call.
On average, there are about 130 suicides a day in America, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide is the 12e leading cause of death in the United States and in 2020 alone, 45,070 people died by suicide. Additionally, from April 2020 to 2021, more than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses.
“We are losing too many people to suicide and addiction and it is undermining adult life expectancy across the country,” Betteridge continued. “The only way to help in this crisis is to make help readily available to all Americans and that is the goal of the new 988 hotline. We can stop these tragedies before they happen by providing those who need it accessible and quality resources.