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988 and Other Crisis Hotlines

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline launched in July 2022. This 3-digit number hotline replaces the previous 800 number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (SAMHSA.GOV). Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s name has been changed to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline.


The 988 number is available 24/7 for calls, chats, and texts. Calling the 988 number as well as other crisis hotlines that will be outlined below offers immediate access to crisis counselors who offer assistance to persons who may be experiencing substance use, suicidal and mental health crises (SAMHSA). The prior number for the National Suicide and Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is still accessible. The 988 number was created to offer an easier way to remember the hotline and thus allowing increase in access to the services.


How to Use 988

If you believe you are in crisis and need immediate support, you can call this hotline, whether through the 988 number or the 800 number. If you believe that your loved one may be in a crisis, you can also reach out to the hotline on their behalf. When you contact this number, you will be connected to a crisis professional who will provide crisis support. The SAMHSA website noted that the difference between calling 911 and 988 is the emphasis on provided support for the growing mental health crisis in the country. The focus is on providing access to mental health care rather than 911’s focus on dispatching emergency medical services.


Are There Risks to Calling 988?

The simple answer is yes. The services are designed to provide support to individuals in crises, particularly clients who are at risk for suicide. The service is also available to clients who experience substance use. Therefore, if you contact this hotline and are unable to partner with the crisis professional in safety planning, and imminent risk does not decrease during the call to the hotline, emergency medical services will more than likely be dispatched to ensure safety of the individual(s). Remember, the goal is to preserve life.


Additionally, for clients who identify themselves as belonging to any minority groups, there may be additional concerns. People belonging to minority groups who have had negative experiences with medical/health professionals as well as with emergency personnel may find reaching out to the emergency hotline as a traumatic experience. These individuals will experience fear of interactions with these personnel, concerns about involuntary hospitalization, and concerns about quality of care and treatment. All these concerns are indeed valid. As the 988 number and service expands, they will experience many situations that can be utilized as learning tools to improve their services.


Other Crisis Hotlines

As my practice is New Jersey-based, I also offer local support options to clients when safety planning. People having varying beliefs and opinions on mental services and its systems. There are a wide range of experiences that people have following their interactions with mental health and crises professionals. These experiences can exacerbate or improve people’s faith in these services. I encourage you to take time to reflect and process your own experiences and how they have impacted your own mental health and treatment.


Here are a few other resources that are locally offered to New Jersey-based individuals:


2ndFloor.org is a 24/7 hotline that is targeted to NJ’s teens and young adults. This line is confidential and anonymous. Individuals can call or text at 888-222-2228.


New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline, NJ Hopeline for short. As the name indicates, this is the state’s mental health crisis hotline which was established in 2013. This hopeline is available 24/7 by call, chat, or text at 1-855-654-6735.


ReachNJ is NJ’s central hotline for individuals who need assistance for substance use disorder. The number 1-844-732-2465 is available 24/7. The hotline offers supportive services and connections to treatment providers. This service is available to all age groups regardless of insurance status.


NJ Mental Health Cares is a helpline that offers free mental health screenings. The program offers telephone counseling and provides referrals to behavioral health services for individuals and their loved ones. Their contact number is 866-202-4357.


Please feel free to share these contact numbers and hyperlinks if you know someone who could benefit from any of these services.


Photo cred: Unsplash.com



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