Beacon Staff 

Suicide hotline makes plans for change

Grant-funded switch will make the hotline easier to remember, for people in crisis


Last updated 3/7/2021 at 8:18am

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The national hotline for suicide crises is set to change, due to a grant from the Department of Health.

Editor's Note: If you are in suicidal crisis now, call 911 or call Lifeline at 800–273-TALK (8255). If you are in a less immediate crisis, suffering depression or money problems, call 211 or your health care provider.

A phone number available for people in suicidal crisis will get easier to remember in 2022, due to grant-funding from a state agency.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline intends to change it to 988, sometime in 2022.

"For a person in behavioral health crisis, a phone call with a skilled crisis-line worker and a connection to follow-up support can (save a life)," said Jennifer Stuber, center director of Forefront Suicide Prevention at the University of Washington. "The 988 grant presents the opportunity to begin to simplify, expand and enhance our crisis response system."

Stuber lost her husband to suicide, according to her online profile at UW. She conducts research and is involved in advocacy to address the public health problem of suicide and cofounded "Forefront," for suicide prevention:

The Washington Department of Health has freed up $190,000 grant to make a 10-digit number into a 3-digit number, to assist people in suicidal crisis. The current phone number is 800–273-TALK (8255).

The new 988 number, once implemented in 2022, is intended to prevent suicides and help people find help when in mental health crises.

Stuber is excited for new opportunities made possible because of this grant.

The Vibrant grants – like the one that will transition a lengthy phone number into a concise one – have been distributed in 49 states and territories.

According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), 90% of suicides are completed by people who live with mental illness. People experiencing depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and borderline personality disorder experience suicide rates as high as 15-20%, although the risk varies depending on diagnosis, the NAMI website states.


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