If you have not yet visited our mental health resource page, we have a whole list of resources that Christian Counselors and pastors should have readily accessible in case they need it. (While you are at it, check out our Books We Recommend of (mostly) Christian literature about mental health.) Of those resources, the one we intentionally put at the top was the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline with the United States phone number listed right there in case you immediately needed it. Well, that number has officially changed in the United States to 988.
The reason for the change? This new, shorter phone number will make it easier for people to remember and access mental health crisis services. (Please note, the previous 1-800-273-TALK (8255) number will continue to function indefinitely.) (988Lifeline.org)
In the era of Contact list, memorizing a single phone number feels impossible and that’s coming from a Gen Xer that used to have to memorize everyone’s number. Yet, even with it being hard to memorize, 3.5 million calls were made this last year. (ASFP.org) Because of this new ease of use, they expect in the first year of implementation of 988, call volume is estimated to increase by 150 – 240%.
What is 988 or nicknamed The Lifeline? The Lifeline’s network of over 200 crisis centers has been in operation since 2005, and has been proven to be effective. It’s the counselors at these local crisis centers who answer the contacts the Lifeline receives every day. Numerous studies have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed and more hopeful after speaking with a Lifeline counselor.
When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing Lifeline network. These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary. (988TheLifeline.org)
What should I do as a pastor with this new number? I would highly recommend that ALL STAFF have this new number ready and available. SAMHSA is the overarching funder of this initiative and has tons of free resources they are giving out. I recommend getting the new 988 post that you can order to be mailed to you or download to hang up in important and regularly accessed areas. But you can look at everything they have here and it’s all free.
The hope is that we save more lives as mental health and suicidality is truly destroying our nation and world. I pray you join in the move to get people better access to this resource.