People experiencing a mental health crisis now have a new way to reach out for help. States across the country, including Kansas. started rolling out 988 as the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number over the weekend.
Early last week Kansas Governor Laura Kelly ceremonially signed Senate Bill 19, bipartisan legislation that launches 9-8-8 as the official 24/7 three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Beginning Saturday, July 16, Kansans and all Americans can call 9-8-8 during mental health and substance abuse emergencies.
In July of 2020 the Federal Communications Commission unanimously finalized 9-8-8 as the new digits. The FCC said the number will make it easier for those in crisis to get the help they need. Suicide has been among the leading causes of death in the country since 2018.
Kansas Senator Jerry Moran and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner introduced the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act which designated 9-8-8 as the suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line was 10-digits, which was a barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support.
The hotline will provide round-the-clock confidential support from mental health professionals trained to respond to such emergencies. Experts say it could potentially help over seven and a half million people in its first year.