Through new federal funding, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will soon get a much-needed upgrade, which could transform it into- “the 911 for mental health,” Steve Eder writes for the New York Times—however, some experts still worry the Lifeline won’t meet growing demand.

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The national crisis hotline gets a much-needed upgrade

Starting in July, the Lifeline will have its own three-digit number, 988, that people can call to access trained counselors and responders during mental health crises. As part of the rollout, new federal grants will also allow call centers to hire more counselors, upgrade infrastructure, and backup centers are getting new funding to build capacity.

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In addition, there are plans to eventually expand the Lifeline’s services to include emergency workers and mental health triage centers, which advocates say will help save lives by reducing police interventions and ED visits.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the new Lifeline system will be a “lean, clean, working machine so that we can get this done for the people that call in.”

Currently, around 4% of people who call the Lifeline are believed to be at immediate risk of or actively attempting suicide, while another 23% have had suicidal thoughts within 24 hours of calling. Of the calls made to the Lifeline, around 80% of crises are resolved without further intervention, such as the police, Eder writes.

According to researchers, the Lifeline is so effective because it gives people who are struggling someone to talk to during their darkest moments. “That can make the difference between someone being alive and not alive,” said Madelyn Gould, a psychiatric epidemiologist at Columbia University.

Many callers have shared similar feedback on social media, with one writing that the Lifeline “has saved my life on multiple occasions, including tonight.”

More funding, staff is needed for 988 to be effective

However, some experts have voiced concerns about whether the Lifeline will meet the demand for its services when it is upgraded later this year. In the next few years, estimates suggest the Lifeline will receive calls from tens of millions of people seeking help, Eder writes.

“Our concern is very much about whether there will be someone to answer that …….

Source: https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2022/03/15/crisis-hotline

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