988: a New Era for Mental Health Resources
In recent news, the traditional ten-digit suicide hotline has been shortened to a simple three-digit number– 988– as of Saturday, July sixteenth. This alteration has created an impressive new precedent for the scope of national mental health resources. The Biden administration, with the additional action of the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Veteran Affairs, and Department of Health and Human Services, has worked to establish and fund this program.
The 988 number functions similarly to 911, in that anyone can call and get immediate assistance. The program has plans to establish further local networks so that callers have a variety of options for treatment and intervention, whether their crisis be acute or not. Though this will take further funding and continued time in action, the program will ideally become more streamlined, supported, and comprehensive as time goes on.
Although the phone number and its institution have their fair share of problems, as a number tied to a vast federal network and as a very recently instated resource, this change signals a new and promising beginning for the normalization of mental health discussions and resources. It is worth acknowledging the fact that 988 does not constitute therapy or even intimate conversation. Callers aren’t choosing the responder that they get. But ultimately, if you or a loved one is in immediate crisis, it is a place to consider turning to– another resource, certainly worth exploring.