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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been in existence since 2005, but it has always been 1-800-273-8255. While it has been great to have a number for people to call in a suicide crisis situation, a new government initiative is making it easier for people to get help. All a person has to do is call or text 988 to reach someone when they are in a state of emotional distress, having thoughts of suicide or harming others, or having substance abuse concerns.

One of the greatest advantages to this new number, besides making it easier for a person to remember, is that prior to making the shift, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was traditionally focused on supporting someone experiencing a suicidal crisis situation. Now, there is support for a person that just needs to talk through their anxiety, depression, or substance use distress.

Just as before, when a person calls the lifeline they will be linked to a trained professional such as a counselor, therapist, or social worker for support. These counselors are trained to reduce the stress of the challenge, provide emotional support, and link to local services if needed after the call is over. Research has shown that most calls to the lifeline can be managed or resolved over the phone; however, there are always exceptions.

Help us break down the stigma of receiving support by promoting 988! There is no shame in seeking out support. If you notice any of the below emotional, behavioral, or physical changes in someone, they may benefit from talking with a mental health professional. Keep in mind that most of these are compounded on top of each other and last for several weeks.

  • Fatigue
  • Increased irritability
  • Depression lasting more than 2 weeks
  • Social isolation
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Difficulty following through with tasks at work or school

Remember your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It will take all of us to embrace the change to 988, but thank goodness it is easy to remember!

Written by: Bridget Britton, Behavioral Health Field Specialist, OSU Extension britton.191@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Mental Health. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/index.htm

Center for Public Health Practice, The Ohio State University College of Public Health. Ohio Mental Health Resource Guides. https://u.osu.edu/cphp/ohio-mental-health-resource-guides/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration. 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988

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