A newly passed law is making some much-needed change in our mental health care system.
According to a 2019 Federal Communications Commission report, suicide claimed 48,000 American lives in 2018 alone. 48,000 permanent solutions to what could have been temporary problems.
The report also shared that over 20 veterans die by suicide every day, and, citing the CDC, “LGBTQ youth contemplate suicide at a rate almost three times higher than heterosexual youth, and more than 500,000 LGBTQ youth will attempt suicide this year.”
In a recent article with AARP, the FCC Chairman also shared that, “in a review of 550 suicidal individuals who reached out to the [National Suicide] hotline, 95 percent of them reported that the call stopped them from killing themselves.”
That’s over 522 lives saved because someone in need knew who to call for help.
But how many of us can say that we have the National Suicide Hotline memorized? It’s not like it’s 911, after all — that 3-digit, easy-to-memorize number we’ve had drilled into us since kindergarten. For people in crisis, the time it takes to look up and call a ten-digit lifeline number can steal precious minutes or lessen resolve.
Fortunately, we now have a solution.
This past May, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, to help Americans in need. The bill will establish a 3-digit, easy-to-access emergency number as a nation-wide hotline for suicide prevention and mental health crises.
That number is 9-8-8.
In July, Congress added its approval, and a two-year transition process is underway to route all 988 calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July of 2022. Until then, you can continue to reach the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
The purpose of the bill and the new number is to make immediate and appropriate mental health support more available to people in crisis. The office of Senator Jack Reed, who co-authored the bill, says, “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support, prevention, and crisis resources.” When someone calls the National Suicide Hotline, they will be automatically routed to a local crisis center. The hotline connects to over 160 crisis centers, each staffed by accredited and trained suicide prevention and mental health specialists.
These three numbers will save lives.
With this new 988 number, the FCC estimates that calls to the hotline will double, requiring additional resources and funding for our country’s already under-resourced mental health care system. Unfortunately, funding decisions fall outside of the FCC’s jurisdiction, so they are asking stakeholders — that is, the American public — to advocate for appropriate funding.
How can you help?
To help those close to you who may be struggling with mental health and/or suicidal thoughts or behaviors, take a moment to reach out, share mental health resources, or familiarize yourself with these “11 Warning Signs Of Suicide” from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
- Talking about wanting to do or kill themselves.
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Increase the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Having extreme mood swings.
For post-9/11 Veterans and their families, Endeavors offers high-quality, discreet mental health services through our Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics in San Antonio, Killeen, and El Paso. During the pandemic, our professionals are continuing to serve clients remotely through Telehealth and a variety of virtual support groups on topics such as PTSD, Couples Therapy, Youth Mental Health, and more. Visit our website to learn more about how Endeavors can help you or a loved one living with mental health issues.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.
About The Cohen Veterans Network
Cohen Veterans Network is a 501(c)(3) national not for profit philanthropic network of mental health clinics for post-9/11 veterans and their families. CVN focuses on improving mental health outcomes, with a goal to build a network of outpatient mental health clinics for veterans and their families in high-need communities, in which trained clinicians deliver holistic evidence-based care to treat mental health conditions. The network currently has 16 clinics in operation serving veterans and their families across the country. Learn more about Cohen Veterans Network.