New 988 Hotline Launches in Illinois

The new national mental health crisis line 9-8-8 went into effect on Saturday, including in Illinois. Enhanced funding should guarantee that calls are answered by residents located in the state the call is made. For a long time, many mental health specialists have supported this action. The objective is to allow mental health professionals to respond to and defuse mental health crises, rather than relying on law enforcement to do so.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s previous, lengthy number (1-800-273-8255) has been replaced by 988. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 46,000 Americans will die due to suicide in 2020, making it one of the leading causes of death in the country. In addition to responding to calls about suicide, the 988 hotline will also address calls about substance abuse, exposure to trauma, hallucinations, or delusions, along with other mental health emergencies.

“​​988 is meant to be the alternative to 911 for mental health situations”. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the biggest grassroots mental health initiative, says Andy Wade, executive director of the Illinois chapter, “It is the beginning of a long-term [project] to really reinvent how we respond to [the] crisis.”

The service has received $432 million from the federal government, an increase of 18 times above the amount funded in the suicide prevention lifeline previously. By 2024, Illinois will get $10 to $15 million in federal funding year. The funds will be used to provide services and hire personnel to answer calls and texts.

Courtesy of psinderbrand (Flickr CC0)

Although the 988 hotline is a step in the right direction for mental healthcare, advocates for the field say much more work needs to be done to produce outcomes that are fair, easily accessible, and acceptable. They caution that while operating within the same structures, modern solutions to mental health emergencies aren’t always secure or non-coercive. Organizers must take care to avoid making the same mistakes they did before.

People in marginalized communities may be hesitant to call 988 for a variety of reasons, according to Liat Ben-Moshe, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminology, law, and justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of “Disability Incarcerated and Decarcerating Disability.” They might be concerned that making a call will put them under surveillance, trigger a violent police response, result in non-consensual psychiatric treatment, or result in hospitalization.

Governor J.B. Pritzker stated in a statement that the increased 988 Lifeline number “will help save many lives” he says this because of the numerous outstanding counselors who stepped up to help individuals who were in need. “To any Illinois resident who might be struggling, know that you are not alone. We are here to support you. You can receive help by dialing or texting 988.”

According to IDHS, they say that 988 offers access to free, 24/7 confidential support if you or someone you know is considering suicide or is going through a crisis related to their mental health or use of drugs. As a caller, people can choose between the Veterans Crisis Line and the Crisis Line in Spanish at the beginning of the conversation. If the caller with an Illinois area code does not choose one of these alternatives, they will be connected to an Illinois Lifeline Call Center. The caller is transferred to the NSPL backup affiliate network or to someone in another state if, after three minutes, no live person answers the call.

Since 2005, Lifeline has operated a network of more than 200 crisis centers, and it has been shown to be successful. The counselors at these nearby crisis centers are the ones who respond to Lifeline’s daily inquiries. Numerous studies have demonstrated that after consulting with a Lifeline counselor, callers feel less suicidal, sad, overwhelmed, and hopeless.

Written By Dylan Santoyo
Edited by Sheena Robertson


Chicago Health: The New 988

NBC Chicago: New 988 Suicide Prevention Line Goes Into Effect Saturday. Here’s What to Know

IDHS: 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

988LIFELINE: The Lifeline and 988

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Mimzy’s Pixabay Page – Pixabay License

Inset Image Courtesy of psinderbrand’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License

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