The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be rolling out a new number -– 988 — to help connect those experiencing a mental health crisis with trained staff. A program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, it is expected to launch this summer
Implementation of the new number is rolling out state-by state, providing an opportunity for AAP chapters to coordinate with state program administrators, https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/partner-toolkit
The current Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) will remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis after 988 is launched nationally.
May Lau, M.D., M.P.H., FSAHM, FAAP, a lead author of the Blueprint for Youth Suicide Prevention and a member of the AAP Section on Adolescent Health Executive Committee, said the new 988 platform is an additional resource for parents and children.
“It’s going to be much easier for people to remember and, what I like about it is it’s going to offer text support,” Dr. Lau said. “We can give out the crisis text line, and (patients) really like it because it’s someone they can text when they’re feeling that (need) in the middle of the night.”
A 2019 AAP survey showed more than 90% of pediatricians reported having a patient disclose suicidal ideation. With pediatricians seeing more patients reporting mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts, Dr. Lau said it is important to ensure this new resource is provided to all patients and families.
Dr. Lau said pediatricians can advertise the new 988 number on their practice websites, in their offices and on after visit summaries.
“In my practice, I’ll see a patient who is thriving and doing well and three to six months later, all of a sudden, they’re screening positive for depression,” Dr. Lau said. “You know they may deny any suicidal ideation or thoughts, but who knows what’s going to happen a month or two from now?”
Parents also can call the number if they’re worried their child may need support.
“Anybody can get access to a counselor, especially those who live in rural communities who may not have lots of mental health resources,” Dr. Lau said. “This is just an extra resource to support our youth who have gone through mental health difficulties.”
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youths 10-24 years old. Studies have shown callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed and more hopeful after speaking with a Suicide Prevention Lifeline counselor. In its first year in 2005, the Lifeline answered more than 50,000 calls. By 2020, that number had jumped to nearly 2.4 million calls.
The new three-digit number was created as part of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which was signed into law in October 2020. The Federal Communications Commission has required telephone providers to make the new 988 number accessible by July 16.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Blueprint for Youth Suicide Prevention
- AAP suicide prevention resources
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Information on the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and 988
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
- Crisis Text Line, text “talk” to 741741