3 numbers with a big impact

3 numbers with a big impact

In an emergency, people often dial 911. Now, there will be a simple three-digit number for anyone in the United States experiencing a mental health crisis.

They can simply reach out to 988.

The three-digit dialing code, available nationwide on July 16, connects callers, texters or chatters to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

According to the organization’s website, calling, texting or chatting 988 will connect individuals to “trained counselors that…will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support and connect them to resources if necessary.”

There’s a need for a simple way to seek help during a mental health crisis. More than 12 million people have serious thoughts of suicide according to the most recent data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In these moments, Dr. Munther Barakat, Director of Behavioral Health Therapy for Advocate Aurora Health, says simple and quick access to help can truly make a difference.

“The three-digit number makes it easy for people to remember and get the help they need,” says Dr. Barakat. “People who are experiencing thoughts of harming themselves should access this number.”

Understanding warning signs can be helpful to know when intervention or help is needed. Dr. Barakat says recognizing these behaviors can be early indicators that you or a loved one may be thinking about suicide.

“Often times before people begin to experience suicidal ideations, they’ll experience depressive symptoms including isolative behaviors, disrupted sleep, moodiness and lack of interest,” he says.

Additional warning signs include:

  • Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Aggressive, impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Dramatic mood swings

Dr. Barakat recommends telling your primary care physician if you experience any of these symptoms. If these symptoms reach a crisis point, he recommends seeking help immediately.

“Resources such as the hotline provide an easy way to connect when people reach a point where they believe they are unsafe. An alternative to using the hotline would be going to your nearest emergency department,” Dr. Barakat says.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

Advocate Aurora Health offers behavioral health treatment and programs. Learn more about your options: Illinois | Wisconsin.

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About the Author

LeeAnn Betz
LeeAnn Betz

LeeAnn Betz, health enews contributor, is a media relations manager for Advocate Aurora Health. She is a former TV news executive producer with a background in investigations, consumer news and in-depth storytelling. Outside of work, she enjoys CrossFit, baking, finding a good cup of coffee and being a mom.