Less than one week after the debut of 988, the national suicide and crisis hotline, officials from the federal government sat down with area non-profits to see how the launch went and what could be improved.
By dialing 988, anyone in crisis can call, text and chat 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week with trained crisis counselors. Loved ones and caregivers of those in crisis also may call this lifeline. Unlike 911, 988 does not involve law enforcement, accept in rare instances. Callers can remain anonymous.
“988 – that will save lives with timely intervention,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin.
Attending the roundtable led by U.S. Rep. David Trone were U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Cardin, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and representatives from EveryMind in Rockville and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It took place in the Gaithersburg library,
“We are losing close to 50,000 people [annually across the United States] to suicide, almost 60% of these are due to guns,” said Trone. He believes calls to 988 will help reduce the number of people who attempt suicide. “One call can reduce that impulsivity.”
In Maryland, 3,300 people died due to suicide or overdoses in the past year. That is unacceptable,” said Van Hollen.
Holly Wilcox, cochair of Gov. Larry Hogan’s commission on 988, called the hotline “a gateway,” noting, “This could be the first contact to the mental health system.” While she praised the new national number, Wilcox also warned, “We have to prevent those crises from ever happening.”
Destigmatizing mental health issues is important, she said.
According to Becerra, people already are using 988. There was nearly a 50% increase in the volume of calls across the country to crisis centers when comparing the Wednesday before the launch to the Wednesday right after. “That’s amazing. Way more Americans reached out, and they might not have,” he said.