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The new national mental health crisis line 9-8-8 went into effect on Saturday. Enhanced funding should guarantee that calls are answered by residents located in the state the call or text is made. For a long time, many mental health specialists have supported this action. The objective is to allow mental health professionals to respond to and defuse mental health crises rather than relying on law enforcement.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s previous, lengthy number (1-800-273-8255) was replaced by 988. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 46,000 Americans will die due to suicide in 2020, making it one of the leading causes of death in the country. In addition to responding to calls about suicide, the hotline will also address calls about substance abuse, exposure to trauma, hallucinations, or delusions, along with other mental health emergencies.
“988 is meant to be the alternative to 911 for mental health situations.” The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the biggest grassroots mental health initiative, says Andy Wade, executive director of the Illinois chapter. “It is the beginning of a long-term [project] to really reinvent how we respond to [the] crisis,” he added.
The service received $432 million from the federal government, an increase of 18 times above the amount funded in the suicide prevention lifeline previously. By 2024, Illinois will get $10 to15 million. The funds will be used to provide services and hire personnel to answer calls and texts.
Although the 988 hotline is a step in the right direction for mental healthcare, advocates for the field say much more work needs to be done to produce outcomes that are fair, easily accessible, and acceptable. They caution that while operating within the same structures, modern solutions to mental health emergencies aren’t always secure or non-coercive. Organizers must take care to avoid making the same mistakes they did before.
People in marginalized communities may be hesitant to call 988 for various reasons, according to Liat Ben-Moshe, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of “Disability Incarcerated and Decarcerating Disability.” They might be concerned that making a call will put them under surveillance, trigger a violent police response, result in non-consensual psychiatric treatment, or result in hospitalization.
Governor J.B. Pritzker stated that the increased 988 Lifeline number “will help save many lives” because of the numerous outstanding counselors who stepped up to help individuals who were in need. “To any Illinois resident who might be struggling, know that you are not alone. We are here to support you. You can receive help by dialing or texting 988.”
According to IDHS, 988 offers access to free, 24/7 confidential support if the caller or someone they know is considering suicide or is going through a mental health or drug usage crisis. Callers can choose between the Veterans or Spanish Crisis Lines at the beginning of the call. If they have an Illinois area code and do not choose one of the alternatives, they will be connected to an Illinois Lifeline Call Center. The caller is transferred to the NSPL backup affiliate network or to someone in another state if, after three minutes, no live person has answered the call.
Since 2005, Lifeline has successfully operated a network of more than 200 crisis centers. The counselors at these nearby crisis centers are the ones who respond to Lifeline’s daily inquiries. Numerous studies have shown callers feel less suicidal, sad, overwhelmed, and hopeless after consulting with a Lifeline counselor.
Written By Dylan Santoyo
Edited by Sheena Robertson
Chicago Health: The New 988
NBC Chicago: New 988 Suicide Prevention Line Goes Into Effect Saturday. Here’s What to Know
IDHS: 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
988LIFELINE: The Lifeline and 988
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