New ‘988′ suicide prevention hotline launches Saturday

“988 is great, it’s going to be another tool for us to have to save someone’s life,” an advocate said.
A new three-digit dialing code will go into service to offer an easier route to suicidal and mental health help.
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 11:23 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Saturday’s rollout of the 988 hotline will make it easier for people to reach out for help when they’re experiencing mental health and suicidal crises.

The new three-digit number will connect people to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline across the country, including here in the Carolinas.

Suicide prevention advocates say this new three-digit number is a blessing and offers a newer, smarter way, to give help to those who need it immediately.

“988 is great, it’s going to be another tool for us to have to save someone’s life,” Fonda Bryant, a mental health and suicide prevention advocate, said.

The new number has been two years in the making.

Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, designating 988 to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The current number, will also remain in service.

“I think it is the simplicity, I mean who dials, who dials numbers at all at this point,” Sherry James, the founder of 2020 Lives Changed, said.

Not only does dialing 988 get you faster help and in direct contact with trained professionals, but it takes some of the strain off local law enforcement who often respond to mental health calls.

“To be able to have a person on the other end of that phone, to be able to talk to that person, and understand the situation, and then it very well may still be a 911 scenario but at least there’s that opportunity for intervention beforehand,” James said.

988 will accept calls from anyone in need of suicidal support, mental health and substance use crisis.

“I’m hoping that’s going to put people at ease that they can call 988 and be directly linked to people who can help them if they are in crisis if they are suicidal,” Bryant said.

And if you do call 988, the call will be based on your location, so it’s not like you’re routed to a national hotline. You’re routed to a local professional near you that has access to the national resources.

“I just tell everyone to don’t be ashamed and don’t wait if somebody is in crisis, if somebody is saying ‘I’m going to hurt myself, I don’t want to be here anymore, I’m going to kill myself,’ do not hesitant to call and get that person help ASAP, it is a matter of life and death,” Bryant said.

Bryant is trying to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health and is hosting a free virtual QPR suicide prevention training Saturday, July 16 from 1-3 p.m.

The two-hour training session will allow people to become a certified gatekeeper, meaning you can help save someone’s life.

People interested in attending should contact Bryant at fondanc_40@yahoo.com.

Related: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline adds three-digit dialing code

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