Add 988 to your contacts – The new 911 for suicide prevention

Photo via @epicantus

(BP) When my wife and I moved to Oxford, England, for my doctoral studies, we realized that we didn’t know what to call emergency staff if there was a problem with our little girl, Lily. As a new dad, not knowing who or how to call for help in a time of crisis in a foreign country surprised me. I called a local hotel and the concierge kindly told me that 911 from England was “Triple 9 – 999”. Phew! Although I never had to dial the number, it helped us know what to do in times of crisis.

Here’s the key question: If you’re having a mental health crisis or someone you know is struggling with mental pain, do you know who or how to call for immediate help and intervention? Did you know May is Mental Health Awareness Month? Every Christian should be aware of an important and helpful tool that will soon be available – dialing 988. In my experience, many Christians are unprepared for immediate action in a moment of mental pain and mental crisis. Here is a vital intervention step that could save the life of someone you love.

The national lifeline for suicide prevention was only recently created in 2005 and has received over 20 million hits. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for all ages, including non-English speakers, calls are routed to the nearest crisis center based on caller location. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline through TTY by calling 1-800-799-4889 or using Lifeline Live Chat online. Download the 988 data sheet.

RELATED: Russell Moore: Do Christians Who Commit Suicide Go To Hell?

What do we need to know? On July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 is changing to an easy to remember emergency number – 988. Please save it to your contacts and encourage everyone in your community to same . Similar to dialing 911, a person may simply dial 988 for immediate assistance from the suicide prevention hotline. Sometimes it’s hard to remember even the most basic facts in a moment of crisis, like your address or date of birth. If you meet a son or a daughter or a friend in crisis, it’s hard to remember a 10-digit number. What if you or someone you know is in a place where they are not comfortable talking? An alternative to Lifeline is the Crisis Text Line (741-741), which offers confidential assistance 24/7 via text message. Your number won’t appear and if you don’t want to share your identity, you don’t have to. Veterans and members of the military can reach the Veterans Crisisline by pressing 1 after dialing, chatting online at or texting 838255.

When will 988 be available nationwide? From July 16 this year, 988 will be the new three-digit dialing code connecting people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where compassionate and accessible care and support is available for anyone. suffering from mental health distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis assistance.

RELATED: Being a Christian Doesn’t Make You Immune to Depression, Despair and Suicide

We are the people who bring hope. The rates of the Depression and suicide are increasing across all demographic ages, especially our youth. Why is 988 so important? The average wait time for an adult to see a therapist is currently 48 days – for an appointment. Even worse, a child psychologist can take up to a year for an appointment. Our churches must be present in this crisis. As believers, we need to be aware of the difficult issues facing the culture, and mental pain is high on the list. Research shows that people with psychological distress are more likely to seek help from clergy before any other professional group, including mental health experts. This reveals what you may already know: the church is at the center of the healing equation for multitudes seeking peace and joy but struggling with anxiety. Here is an opportunity for Christian leaders and the global church to serve the afflicted.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or in a suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). A list of international suicide hotlines is available here.

This article originally appeared in Baptist Press.