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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline changes line number

988 in effect starting Saturday, July 16
suicide prevention hotline.png
Posted at 10:38 AM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 11:42:24-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's number changes from 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) to 988 on Saturday, July 16.

Years in the making, 988 will allow anyone in crisis to call and text the number.

Callers will be connected to counselors who are able to listen and connect callers to resources.

By shortening the number, professionals hope it will be easier to remember for those who need it.

"For some people, it might start with a text and it might wind up with you actually sitting with a licensed professional right there in your home or somewhere that you agree to meet," said Dr. Greg Nawalanic, clinical psychologist at the University of Kansas Health System. "So that's a huge difference, especially in this time where, in the wake of the pandemic, wait times to get in to see a therapist can be days, weeks, months even. Anything that's going to be able to provide more immediate access, more direct access, I applaud. And I think that we really need it, so this is a huge step forward for mental health in this region."

Teens from the Kansas City area told KSHB 41 News they think the texting option will open up the mental health conversation.

"So I think having that option for people in any sort of crisis is really, really helpful, and I think this three-digit number is really easy to remember. 988 is a lot easier than the long 10-digit number, and it's also really, really nice that kids can just text that three-digit number so easily and have it memorized," said Katherine Koplik, Blue Valley North High School senior.

With more than 200 crisis centers, emergency response teams are set to find some relief with the new number.

"This will take some of the pressure off of our regional emergency departments. The folks who are in crisis and don't know what to do, the only answer they come up with is go to an emergency room or call 911, or 911 might refer you to an emergency room or call law enforcement to come out," Nawalanic said. "This provides you more direct access to someone who's licensed and specialized in this area to help you. So what that can look like is alleviating some of the pressure on our emergency rooms."

In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 19, "bipartisan legislation that creates the state’s suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline and behavioral health intervention teams," according to the state's website. "The mobile crisis teams are created through partnerships between behavioral health professionals and others who provide professional, community-based crisis intervention services, which include de-escalation and stabilization for Kansans experiencing a behavioral health crisis."

Also for those in Kansas, some mobile response teams may be able to drive and meet those in need.