You’ve been hearing about 9-8-8 lately and may be wondering what it is.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has streamlined their phone number to better meet the needs of people in crisis. 9-8-8 is the new emergency number for mental health distress.
The hotline isn’t new, just the numbers have changed to make it easier for an individual to remember while in the midst of an emotional crisis. The number change – which went into effect in July – is the end result of years of behind-the-scenes work to provide the public with easier access to help.
There are 13 crisis centers across Pennsylvania that are part of the national 988 network. TrueNorth Wellness Services has been a Lifeline Call Center since 2007.
What happens when someone calls 9-8-8? The call will first ring to the national network where the caller will hear a recorded prompt asking if the caller is a veteran or active duty military or calling about someone who is a veteran or active duty to press 1 to be connected to the Veteran’s Lifeline. If the caller is not associated with the military, the call will be connected to one of the 13 crisis centers. Currently, the call is routed in the network to a center within the caller’s area code. This means if the caller has a mobile phone with a 717 area code, but they are physically in another state, the call will be routed to TrueNorth Crisis or Lancaster County Crisis. Staff at the call center will talk with the caller and refer to a call center or resources in the local area where the caller is located.
Just last week our TrueNorth hone bank took a call from an individual living in Georgia, with a cell phone area code from central Pennsylvania. We were able to keep them on the line until we connected with 9-1-1 dispatch in Georgia. This individual was suicidal and was escorted to the nearest emergency room for evaluation.
Calls to 9-8-8 will never go unanswered. When a call is received and the local call center is unavailable to answer, the call is routed to one of Pennsylvania’s three regional back up centers. If that call center is unavailable, then the call goes to the national back-up center.
The National Lifeline Hotline has also changed their name to better fit what they do. They are now 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Centers do not just take calls from people who are suicidal, calls can come from people who are experiencing a self-identified crisis or even just having a bad day. A crisis is something different for each individual, so the call centers will not turn someone away or tell people they cannot call in. They will talk to anyone who calls. They always try to get individuals connected to their local resources for help beyond the initial call.
Many people do not have someone to talk to or listen to them and that is why 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is here. So, when we say someone is always listening that is exactly what we mean. 9-8-8 is accessible to everyone and someone will always be on the other end of the call.
You can also call the 9-8-8 number if you are worried about a loved one. Call takers will attempt to provide you with suggestions and information about what the next steps might be to get them help.
This change to 9-8-8 is a positive one and breaks down some of the barriers to getting much-needed help. If you have a question or concern, make the call. The first step to getting help is reaching out. There will always be someone on the other end of 9-8-8 to help guide you along the path to wellness.