America is transitioning to a new dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL), 988. The shortened lifeline became available nationwide on July 16, 2022. 988 will be more convenient and easier to remember than the old lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255). However, the old lifeline phone number will always be available even though 988 has launched.
The NSPL launched in 2005, they have expanded their services to reach the deaf or hard of hearing, non-english speakers, as well as veterans and service members. The National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act became a law in 2018, it launched a study into designating a 3-digit dialing code for a national hotline system. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act became a law in 2020, it required the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to designate 988 as the number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. The FCC issued the final order designating 988 as the new lifeline number on July 16, 2020. This order required all U.S. telecommunication providers to activate 988 by July 16, 2022.
What to expect when contacting 988
Anyone can call or text 988 at any time. When one contacts 988, they will be connected to trained counselors at crisis centers closest to the caller’s location. These counselors will listen to callers, provide them with support, and connect them to resources as needed.
The importance of 988
In a moment of mental and emotional crisis it is hard to remember basic personal information let alone a ten-digit phone number. 988 will be easy to dial and receive immediate help. The need for continued improvement in suicide prevention efforts is clear. 988 might seem small to some, but the change is a step in the right direction.
The importance of 988 for the church
According to research provided by Baptist Press, those experiencing psychological distress are more likely to seek the help of church members before mental health experts. The lack of time, experience, and financial resources make suicide prevention difficult for clergy members to fully invest in. This makes 988 a vital resource for pastors, church counselors, and church members.
It is important for everyone to know about the NSPL changing to 988 and to take advantage of their available resources if necessary, it could save a life.