CINCINNATI — People who are in a mental health crisis now have a new number to call for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now 988.
Advocates say the number is much easier than the hotline's previous 10 digits, hoping the lifeline will become the 911 for mental health.
"The beauty of the 988 number is there’s a counselor on the other end of the call," Nancy Eigel-Miller said. "They're really good listeners who are trained in this area."
Miller is the founder and executive director of 1N5, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention. The name represents the one in five people who will experience a mental illness. Mental health has been at the forefront for Miller since her husband, Jim, died by suicide in 2008.
“The anniversary is coming up on July 28,” Miller said. “It was really out of the blue. He had a very big personality. We really didn't know what the signs and symptoms were. There were signs and symptoms. We were just unaware. It’s really my mission now that other people aren't in that same situation that we were in.”
She believes the new 988 number will help with that mission. People in distress can call or text for help.
"If they're talking to someone, they're much more likely to call the mobile crisis unit, which is a mental health trained group of people who will go to the situation rather than a police or the life squad,” Miller said. “We've seen it in schools where kids get restrained by police or by paramedics and that's extremely traumatizing to that child, who's already in distress."
Ohio's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services estimates 179,000 calls and texts could be made in the first year. Advocates expect more calls, as the number switches to an easier way to remember.
"The number that you call is the therapeutic intervention, unlike 911, which is more of a dispatch center for medical problems,” said Dr. Christine Yu Moutier, chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Calls to the old lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, will still go through once 988 takes place.
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