Thrive by IU Health

July 25, 2022

988 – a 3-digit number that is so small, but so significant

988 – a 3-digit number that is so small, but so significant

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline was officially launched on July 16, 2022. This new number is intended to be easy to remember and quick to allow those struggling with a mental health crisis to connect with a trained mental health professional.

Since 988 is very new, there is little research on the efficacy of this 3-digit number compared to the old 11-digit number. However, it is reasonable to expect that 988 will clear things up and be easier for people to remember. Most of us have been accustomed to the 911 number. It’s easy to remember, and we know exactly what we will get when we call that number. That’s the intent of the new 988 number – that the simplicity of the number will be beneficial, add to the resources we already have, and provide a strong focus on mental health issues.

The past few years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been an influential moment for the recognition of mental health issues. Bernice Pescosolido, a sociologist at IU Health that studies the mental health stigma, said “One of the silver linings for the COVID pandemic, was everyone realizing that we all have mental health and that we are all at risk. Loneliness is a significant trigger. Before the pandemic, there were a lot of people who believed they would be immune to mental health issues, but COVID put them in a position of isolation. It made them realize that they could also be at risk of a mental health illness.” COVID-19 increased the recognition of mental health and decreased prejudice and discrimination associated with mental health issues.

In an interview with 8 News, Danielle Henderson discussed the new mental health crisis hotline number. She noted that it’s been increasingly important to know the resources in your area, community and nationally in the last year or so. Knowing 988 is an option is important in a mental health crisis -- putting an individual in a better place if they or someone in their life wants to harm themselves.

Henderson also touched on why this number is specifically helpful in Indiana. “Since 2016, Indiana has had more than 1000 Hoosiers die by suicide annually. This statistic calls for the importance of a resource like 988 in our community.” We already have the crisis help hotline and 211, a number that connects Hoosiers with thousands of health and human service agencies right in their local communities. Adding another resource like 988 is even more beneficial for Indiana.

Suicide is often a spur- of- the- moment decision – an impulsive act. If this hotline can cut that, the 988 number could help reduce suicide rate. “We’re at a moment here – this is a moment for mental health,” said Bernice Pescosolido.

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