The 911 for Mental Health is 988—The Practical Side

America has had a suicide hotline for as long as I can remember. And while this was a great option for those experiencing thoughts of suicide, it had, in my opinion two large limitations. First, it was a 1-800 number so it was difficult to memorize. And, second, not all mental health crises are centered around suicide or even suicidal ideation.

In fact, the first thing that comes to mind after suicide when I think of a mental health crisis is trauma. I think of survivors of domestic violence and those who have witnessed a traumatic event. Trauma can be experienced from the outside (events happening to us and around us) and within us (our thoughts and emotions). For this reason alone, we need more than a “suicide hotline.” We need and now have a mental health crisis hotline. 988 is America’s new Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

If you are in crisis and dial “988,” you will not hear a busy signal and you will not be placed on hold. You will be instantly connected to a network of more than 200 local crisis call centers all over America (www.npr.org) . The former National Suicide Prevention Lifeline of 1-800-273-8255 will remain active, but routes calls to 988. Chat and text are also options 24/7/365.

When you dial 988 you will be connected to a trained counselor at a crisis center close to you. The ability to connect with a mental health professional is critical. In the past, many suicidal people or those experiencing a mental health crisis have called 911. Most often, 911 operators are skilled in crisis situations; however, they are NOT specifically trained to triage nor support those dealing with mental health issues.  In addition, most 911 calls result in law enforcement being called to the person’s location. And while there are now initiatives underway to train law enforcement in supporting those with mental health needs, having a trained counselor is still ideal for supporting these individuals.

Please make a mental note of this new number to call if you are in danger. Additionally, if you are realizing that you could benefit from mental health support, we are here to help. Our trained and seasoned mental health clinicians at Life Enhancement Counseling Services can provide the empathy and tools to help you live your best life. Please contact us at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment. 


Yolanda Brailey