Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 988 is an alternative to 911 for Mental Health Emergencies

In July of 2022, the number 998, was officially designated as the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. For those people experiencing a mental health crisis, the new three-digit number modeled after the emergency services number 911, was created to make access to behavioral health services easier and more accessible. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2019, there was a recorded one death by suicide every 11 minutes in the United States. Mental health illnesses that are left untreated often lead to a whole host of other issues such as violence and especially substance use disorders. From April of 2020 to 2021, an estimated 100,000 individuals died from drug overdoses according to data from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The new 988 hotline is aiming to expand upon behavioral health services and get individuals the mental health care and substance abuse care they need. 

A person’s hands are holding a yellow ribbon representing the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 988 as an alternative to 911 for mental health emergencies.

In 2019 Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act. In 2020 the Federal Communications Commission officially designated 988 as the new three-digit number to dial in mental health emergencies. The two main goals of this hotline reform include strengthening and expanding the safety and capabilities of providing life-saving services to all who contact the hotline. And slowly transforming the nation’s outdated behavioral health crisis care system in which services will be available and accessible to anyone, anytime and anywhere. In addition to the new hotline number, lifeline texts and chat services have also been implemented as alternative modes of communication in an effort to provide more opportunities for suicide prevention and addressing mental health emergencies. 

Oftentimes when police are sent to respond to calls for a mental health crisis, individuals are often involuntarily taken to an emergency room or psychiatric hospital where they will be forced into treatment they did not consent to. This leads to many who end up stuck with large bills for treatment they did not want. Once discharged from treatment, these individuals are much less likely to disclose their mental health conditions in the future, making them more vulnerable to relapsing and suffering from other mental illnesses without receiving the proper help and care.

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The new hotline comprises over 180 crisis centers across the country, but demand for the appropriate services and help continues to exceed supply and capacity. Too many individuals are experiencing a mental health-related emergency and being met with an outdated and underdeveloped system unable to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. Everything from the Me Too movement, Black Lives Matter movement, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and now recently the overturning of Roe v. Wade, has only exacerbated mental health issues with a much greater need for behavioral health services in the United States. 

When calling the 988 hotline, individuals will be met with certified crisis counselors, peer support counselors and other trained professionals who are available to help guide callers through their crisis. Callers can also be directed to local crisis support programs. It is just the initial step in providing the appropriate care for those suffering from mental health conditions. 988 serves as an alternative to 911 because many police officers are not specifically trained to de-escalate emergencies involving mental illness. And with the higher rates of police shootings increasing, it may be dangerous to send police officers to respond to a mental health crisis. 

Reach out to Hotel California by the Sea

We specialize in treating addiction and other co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our Admissions specialists are available to walk you through the best options for treating your addiction.

In addition to the 988 Lifeline, there are also specific hotlines for other marginalized communities including the Trans Lifeline – (877) 565-8860 and Blackline – (800) 604-5841. 

If you are suffering from a mental health condition and substance addiction, Hotel California by the Sea specializes in treating co-occurring mental health disorders. Through rigorous inpatient and outpatient programming, specialized behavioral treatment therapies such as CBT, DBT and EMDR therapy, and individualized treatment care, clients will be able to heal their mind, body and soul from the devastations of mental health illnesses and addiction.