Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis? 988 Lifeline is Available to You and Your Loved Ones

Posted on: Fri, 09/02/2022 - 10:28
By: Zero Suicide Committee


The need for an emergency response can often come when we least expect it. When you fall down and can’t get up, you can call 911 for help. When you think someone is breaking into your home, you can call 911 for help. If you have or know someone who has been in a situation like this, you know how important it is to have a life saving service come to your assistance with just the push of three buttons on your phone. But what about mental health crises that arise when we least expect it?

Every year millions of mental health crisis calls are made to 911. While there is a response available to help these callers, it is not always what’s best, or what’s needed, for the individual experiencing the crisis. People experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviors, substance use, or emotional distress need immediate, specialized care to help them.

Thanks to the 988 Lifeline, free and confidential support is available 24/7 to help individuals in distress.

988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now known as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline), and is now active across the United States.

By responding to a mental health crisis with mental health professionals, lives will be saved and people in crisis can get the right care when they need it most.

Using this number can help save lives just like 911 does for physical health and safety emergencies. 

988 is accessible 24/7 for those who are in mental health distress. Having immediate access to a trained crisis counselor is critical to those experiencing a mental health, substance use or suicide crisis. When you call, text, or chat 988, you will be connected with a trained mental health professional no matter where you are located within the United States. Studies have shown that people who use hotlines when experiencing distress, are less depressed and/or suicidal after speaking with a trained professional.  While this is a huge step forward in society, prioritizing accessible mental health care is just the beginning.

Just like with a heart attack, having quick access to help is essential. So how or what would determine if you should call this number?  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness the following are signs of a mental health crisis.

  • Feeling unable to go about daily tasks such as caring for personal hygiene or changing clothes
  • Isolating yourself from loved ones, coworkers, classmates and others
  • Sudden mood swings, such as suddenly happy after bouts of depression
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Violent or abusive behavior toward oneself or others
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

These are all indicators that one is experiencing a mental health crisis. It is important to understand that by dialing 988 an in-person response will not happen. In some situations, such as when a suicide attempt is in progress or another situation in which someone’s physical wellbeing or safety is at risk, please call 911.  The mental health professional on the other end of the call, text, or chat will know what to do and walk you through it. 

For those that don’t meet the need for an emergency response, the trained professionals who answers these calls will be able to provide the caller with information on where they or whoever they are calling about, can receive the care that is needed.  Sometimes people may get referred to their local emergency room.  Other times someone may be called out to the person’s residence to assess the situation.  Then there are the many outpatient programs and services that exist that may be a benefit to the individual and their loved ones.

Whether you are the person calling 988 to get someone you know assistance or are the one in need of help and are concerned about privacy, know that people that call 988 are not required to provide personal identifying information about themselves. The professionals through the hotline will be able to help you navigate the best needs for you or your loved one.

At Center For Family Services, the Zero Suicide Initiative is focused on ensuring that suicide prevention and care is recognized as a priority across the organization. Help is available to you. By offering a full range of counseling and behavioral health services across the state of New Jersey, including access to private and confidential counseling services, providing a space for all people to heal and work towards a healthy future is paramount.

During these challenging times, remember to take care of yourself.  When the people in your circle, and even those whose lives you touch only briefly, seem as if they are having difficulty coping, remember that help is available. You can make a difference in someone’s life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing challenges in your everyday life, including grief, loss, or depression, please reach out to learn more about Center For Family Services’ specialized services for adults, children, teens, and families.

Call 877.922.2377 or email access@centerffs.org to schedule an appointment.


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