988: What is it?

It has come to my attention there is a lot of confusion on what exactly 988 is. But let’s start at the beginning. First there have been various mental health crisis phone lines over the years. Many people might be familiar with some of them like the suicide prevention hotline. While this hotline, and others, are still available 988 is a Nationwide Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Often people have been referring to it as 911 for mental health emergencies. This is a pretty accurate analogy, however there has also been several misconceptions that have arose. Therefore, below are some of the myths versus the facts that everyone should know.

Myth #1: If I call 988, police officers will come arrest me/who I am calling about.

Fact #1: The police are not involved unless absolutely necessary. Most of the time police are not called for 988 referrals, and if they are called it is due to immediate safety concerns.

Myth#2: The people answering the phone are just volunteers and cannot actually help me.

Fact #2: Each person answering the phone goes through standardized training to best help callers and frequently has additional training they must undergo. While some people are volunteers, other responders are paid-staff.

Myth #3: 988 is not going to be a sustainable resource for people.

Fact #3: 988 has been live for over a year now. While each state is in charge of securing funding to sustain the program there has been a ton of progress to ensure 988 remains active. Indiana, for example. passed legislature this past session to fund this resource.

Myth #4: Callers have to disclose a lot of personal information to receive help.

Fact #4: Callers are welcome to share any information they feel comfortable sharing. The more information that is given can allow the people answering the calls to refer the callers to suitable localized help, but callers are never forced to share personal information.

Myth #5: 988 is replacing X,Y,Z hotline.

Fact #5: 988 does not replace any other existing hotlines, however it was created as a number that is easy to remember for those who need mental health help.

Myth #6: I have to be in crisis to contact 988.

Fact #6: People do not have to be in crisis to contact 988. Anyone can call 988 for themselves or another person no matter the degree of crisis. While the 988 lifeline does the not substitute consistent mental health counseling, it does allow for quick relief and guidance in escalated situations.

Myth #7: There are set hours I can receive help.

Fact #7: 988 is available 24/7. Additionally, 988 has a chat option available if people prefer to text with a responder.

In general, 988 is an exciting initiative that has a ton of potential. It is an excellent resource for those that might be struggling, and I encourage individuals to utilize the number. Also, as various states continue to lobby for funds to sustain the program, it is important people speak up to their representatives. Overall, being educated about the available mental health resources, and supporting them, is crucial to improving the mental health of all people.