FORT MYERS, Fla. — In response to rising suicide numbers in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission approved and enacted a new three-digit number to connect callers to potentially lifesaving mental health resources.
Instead of calling 911, people in need of these mental health resources can now dial 988. The number redirects callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or NSFL. The original number for the NSFL, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), will still connect callers to the Lifeline.
The hotline connects callers experiencing emotional distress to local mental health agencies who answer the call and provide care. People can call the lifeline for mild feelings of general sadness ranging to more serious suicidal thoughts.
According to their website, the NSFL says the suicide numbers in the U.S. are the highest since World War II.
As one of the national suicide prevention lifeline’s 170 partners across the country, organizations like the David Lawrence Center in Naples believes the new shorthand 988 number will make it easier for people to connect with them to get the mental health aid they need. This is especially important because the Center is seeing a rise in calls amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From March through May of 2019 compared to March through May of 2020 we have seen an 18% increase (in calls),” says Ariella VanHara, Director of Acute, David Lawrence Center.
VanHara says this is due to financial pressures.
“Mostly because of finances. The economic situation due to COVID-19.”
She encourages people who are struggling with mental health issues or if you know a person who is struggling with mental health issues to give the lifeline a call.
"Reach out to a professional to assess the situation because you don’t want to have that burden upon yourself if you’re not a professional. Reaching out to someone at a call center would be ideal," says VanHara.
The suicide prevention lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is free to call the lifeline and all conversations with the professionals are confidential.