Ashlyn Johnson serves as the ministry assistant at Living Well Counseling in Jonesboro.
On July 16th, 2022, the current 10-digit suicide prevention hotline number will transition to 9-8-8. This is an amazing development for mental health, because it acknowledges the need for easier access to help people in the midst of a mental health crisis. If someone is struggling with pains of what they believe to be a heart attack, they would call 9-1-1. This will work the same way, but for those struggling with thoughts of suicide. If someone is experiencing immense feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of hurting themselves, it will be much easier to call 9-8-8 than searching for the 10-digit hotline number. We are inviting Arkansans to join in the effort to share this new number that has the potential to save lives and bring healing.
Suicide is a stigmatized topic that people tend to shy away from, because it is often misunderstood and leaves people with more questions than answers. Awareness is crucial in producing change on difficult and misunderstood topics. Because suicide is often misunderstood, it is important to address the facts.
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the Unites States, and in 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide. Arkansas ranks higher than the country’s average with a suicide rate of 19.15 per 100,000 individuals (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, n.d.). These statistics are a reflection of the broken world we live in – a world that needs hope, healing, and restoration.
This new number, 9-8-8, can be part of the hope and healing that our world needs as it can direct people toward more immediate help in a time of mental health crisis. 9-8-8 is also a step toward reducing the stigma around suicide. Based on a literature review of studies conducted on suicide worldwide, “only 39% of people at risk had sought help of any kind in the preceding year with the main reasons for not acquiring help being: failure to recognize the need for help, the belief that any intervention would be ineffective, and fear of being stigmatized” (Carpiniello & Pinna, 2017). Spreading the word about 9-8-8 is a way that Arkansans can be a part of reducing the stigma around suicidality and reaching more people that are longing for help.
Let this article be a call to action. First, it is a call to pray. Pray for those struggling today with suicidal ideation. Pray for those who have lost a family member or close friend to suicide. Pray for our country as this step forward in reducing suicide rates begins. Pray for churches to support people and love them through mental illness and suicidal ideation. Second, it is a call to share about the resources available to those living in bondage to the cycle of suicidality. By people across Arkansas sharing about 9-8-8 and the available counseling resources in the state, freedom can be found. As we accept this call to action, may we also be reminded that there is light in the midst of darkness. John 1:5 reads, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus is present. He is still working. There will be a day when He returns and the light will overcome the darkness that is so very present around us. Suicide will be no more and He will reign in victory.
Someone reading this might be experiencing suicidal thoughts or know someone personally who is struggling. It is important to be aware of risk factors and know when to point someone toward professional help. Some factors that might put someone more at risk for suicide include: a mental illness diagnosis, isolation, financial stressors, substance abuse, bullying, physical or sexual abuse, divorce, and legal problems (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there is help available.
While the 9-8-8 number is a step in the right direction, further assistance is often needed. Living Well Professional Counseling has Christian counseling services available here in Arkansas, both in-person and via telehealth. Counselors are ready to meet people where they are in their darkest, most difficult moments and walk with them in the healing process.
The current suicide prevention hotline number is: 800-273-8255.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (n.d.). Suicide statistics. https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/
Carpiniello, B. & Pinna, F. (2017). The reciprocal relationship between suicidality and stigma. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 8(35), pp. 1-9.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, May 13). Risk and protective factors: Many factors contribute to suicide risk. https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/factors/index.html