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New suicide and crisis hotline number 9-8-8 set to launch on Saturday

COLUMBIA, MO. (KMIZ)

People in need of suicide prevention, mental health support will only need to dial three numbers starting Saturday.

9-8-8 will become the national three-digit number for all mental health, suicide, and substance abuse crisis.

Casey Muckler with the Department of Mental Health has been a part of the Launch of 9-8-8 and she says "9-8-8 is a three-digit number that is going to be available to anybody experiencing any type of crisis."

It will be replacing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline of 1-800-273-TALK launched back in 2005 but it can still be used.

When someone calls, chats or texts 9-8-8 that individual will be connected to a crisis specialist that is trained and able to deliver help to anyone in the middle of the crisis by addressing the person's concerns and needs.

Experts believe this new number will be easier for people to remember. They say trying to remember a 9-8-8 in rather than a longer phone number will be easier for someone who is in the middle of a crisis.

"It's not so much a transition from the lifeline 10 digit number, it's more so an expansion on the already existing structure so that even more people can receive help and get more ongoing access to care." Muckler says.

A group of suicide prevention advocates from Utah came up with the idea of a three-digit number, which led to The National Suicide Prevention Improvement Act and designated the FCC to study a three-digit number leading to 9-8-8.

Muckler said, "the entities to study the feasibility's of a three-digit number and conduct studies what numbers would be the most appropriate for this sort of service and thought that study they determined it was 9-8-8."

While 9-8-8 is a National effort, but not every state has a local crisis team set up.

Missouri has seven lifeline centers that have trained specialists to handle all state contacts made to 9-8-8.

The trained specialist will provide help through intervention including an assessment, stabilization, referral and a follow-up for individuals with poor mental health and/or suicide. If an individual needs a higher level of care the specialist will work with the caller and others to link them to a mobile crisis team.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2020, there were 45,979 Americans that died by suicide and in that same year, there were over a million suicide attempts.

Those in need of crisis support or know someone who is in need of help should call 9-8-8 starting on July 16th but until then access to help can be found at 1-800-272-8255

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Erika McGuire

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