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988 and the Evolving Mental Healthcare Landscape

The U.S. faces a mental health crisis and lifelines are valuable resources.

Ermolaev Alexandr/Stock Adobe
Source: Ermolaev Alexandr/Stock Adobe

by Rita M. Rivera, M.S. and David Benitez, M.S.

The U.S. government’s decision to create a specialized hotline (988) dedicated to those at risk of suicide or experiencing suicidal ideation has been received with collective approval and praise. This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction to better serve citizens, especially those in underserved communities with limited access to mental health services. The number 988 is rapidly becoming ingrained and internalized by Americans of all backgrounds as the go-to emergency service for those experiencing feelings of despair, hopelessness, and self-harming ideation, whether ultimately life-threatening or not. This “911” of mental health offers hope and promotes resilience by connecting those suffering with qualified crisis professionals meeting a minimum educational requirement on the other side of the hotline.

With rising post-pandemic rates of anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders—among other mental health issues—rapidly becoming apparent at a national level, this is an impactful move that can transform the way we perceive and treat profound mental health issues as a nation. There is more to be done – and more that ought to be done. Institutions of higher education all over the country are taking necessary steps to address mental health within their populations, many corporations are following in these steps, and the overall paradigm appears to be slowly yet significantly tilting toward the known fact that mental healthcare is inseparable from what we have so long held to constitute "healthcare."

On that note, it’s worth highlighting some tools that are currently available for both emergency and crisis situations, as well as to avert potential crises:

  • The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Available 24/7, in English and Spanish, the Lifeline offers free and confidential support for individuals in distress and crisis. People can also call the 988 Lifeline to obtain resources for themselves and their loved ones. Its website has resources tailored to diverse populations, including ethnic/racial and gender/sexual minorities, neurodivergent populations, and veterans. You can access it here:
  • Línea PAS. The PAS Lifeline is available for Puerto Rico residents, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It offers crisis counseling and emotional support, preliminary screening at the psychosocial level, coordination of psychiatric and psychological evaluation, telehealth links, and referrals. The PAS Lifeline also assists individuals with suicidal behavior and other mental health problems such as depression, domestic violence, and anxiety disorders. To access it, call 1-800-981-0023 or visit online.
  • SAMSHA’s National Helpline. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMSHA) provides a free and confidential 24/7 hotline focused on treatment referral and information for individuals facing mental-health and/or substance use disorders. The hotline is available in both English and Spanish and can also be accessed by family members and loved ones of those experiencing mental health issues. To access it, call 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMSHA’s website also provides a confidential and anonymous directory of treatment facilities for substance use and/or mental health issues across the U.S. and its territories.
  • The National Substance Abuse Hotline. The National Rehab Hotline offers free and confidential 24/7 assistance for anyone experiencing substance use or a mental health crisis. This hotline can be accessed by loved ones to find treatment suggestions, immediate interventions, and information regarding local resources. The phone number is 1-866-210-1303. The hotline's website also offers a guide to resources organized by state.
  • Crisis Text Line. Those ambivalent about calling or who prefer to text may access the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 and connecting with a crisis counselor. The line is secure, available 24/7, and can also be accessed via WhatsApp or via the group's website. This site also provides resources regarding several public health crises related to mental health issues, including gun violence and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The NAMI HelpLine. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a helpline available Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (ET) at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or via text by sending “HelpLine” to 62640. You can also get help through their website, which offers a wide array of resources on mental illness, including online discussion groups and a guide to finding your local NAMI.
  • 211. Individuals can call 211 to access essential community services, including mental health information, food resources and programs, and resources tailored to immigrant populations.
  • Veterans Crisis Line. This resource is confidential, free, and available to all veterans and their loved ones. To access it, dial 988 and then press 1. You can also text 838255 or chat online on their website. This site also offers a directory with local resources and a support network for veterans, family members, and friends.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline. This hotline is free, confidential, and available 24/7 in English, Spanish, and 200+ languages through interpretation services. Their hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or by texting “START” to 88788.
  • The Trevor Lifeline. Sponsored by the Trevor Project, this hotline offers 24/7, confidential, and free support to LGBTQ youth. The hotline can be accessed via phone at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” at 678-678. Individuals can also chat with crisis counselors on the group's website.
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline. Sponsored by RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, this hotline is confidential and available 24/7. Individuals can call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or chat online.
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Helpline. This resource is available for anyone experiencing an eating disorder, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. The helpline is free at 1-888-375-7767.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

Based on an article initially published in the Fall 2022 edition of Albizu Magazine.

References

Rivera, R.M., & Benitez, D. (2022). 988: The evolving mental healthcare landscape & other lifelines. Albizu Magazine. https://magazine.albizu.edu/988-the-evolving-mental-healthcare-landscape-other-lifelines%EF%BF%BC/

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