The 988 Mental Health Hotline Is a Step Forward
On July 16th, 2022, the new three-digit Suicide and Mental Health Crisis Hotline went into full effect.1 The transition from a 10-digit number to the more convenient and memorable 988 is a positive step toward adequate and widely-accessible mental health resources for all. Moreover, the hotline is no longer solely for suicidal individuals but open to anyone facing a mental health crisis. The overall messaging behind this change is perhaps the most impactful. We hear you; we see you; we'll show you not only through our words but through our actions.
How the 988 Mental Health Hotline Fights Stigma
It's no secret that cops are seldom mental health experts. They are asked to assume the role of protector, mediator, and enforcer; sometimes, those roles collide, tragically at that. That said, I think the most promising aspect of the 988 mental health hotline is the mental health care professional on the other line. I genuinely hope this shift will reflect on the number of individuals wrongly imprisoned because a law enforcer was not trained on how to interact with and diffuse a situation surrounding mental health.
There is no doubt that the pandemic played a role in the creation of the new hotline. From August 2020 to February 2021,
"the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5 percent."2
America and the world are in a mental health crisis; the more legislatures take action along with the increase in overall awareness and understanding, the more we can work to destigmatize mental health illnesses. The fact that Congress passed the law to enact the 988 hotline, albeit small, is a victory in itself. Additionally, President Biden and his administration have poured over 400 million dollars into improving locally-operated crisis centers, bolstering the mental health services network that supports individuals seeking help through the hotline.1,3
The 988 Mental Health Hotline's End-Goal
As the saying goes: continual improvement is an unending journey. While we can rejoice in a battle won, it is important to note that there is still work to be done. There are still significant disparities in access to mental health resources, especially in marginalized communities. There are still individuals who feel ashamed to ask for help. There are still people dying every day because the system has failed them. Complete eradication of these injustices may be far, but not out of reach, and until that day comes, I will not be silent, and neither should you. Our voices matter, and our voices can make a difference.
- Chatterjee, R. (2022, July 15). The New 988 Mental Health Hotline is Live. Here’s What to Know. NPR. https://choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/07/15/1111316589/988-suicide-hotline-number
Vahratian, A. (2021, April 1). Symptoms of Anxiety or Depressive Disorder and Use of Mental Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7013e2.htm
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. (n.d.). 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. 988 Lifeline. https://988lifeline.org/
Jack, J. (2022, August 4). The 988 Mental Health Hotline Is a Step Forward, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2022/8/the-988-mental-health-hotline-is-a-step-forward