MENTAL HEALTH

Rep Stewart’s suicide prevention hotline, 988, goes live this week

Jul 13, 2022, 5:55 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 10:38 am

Incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, debates GOP primary challenger Erin Rider aon Tuesday, May 31...

Incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, debates GOP primary challenger Erin Rider aon Tuesday, May 31, 2022. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been two years since Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) revealed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act designating a new and universal telephone number for suicide prevention.

This week, Stewart announced that the legislation will take effect and will be live on all telephone devices beginning July 16, 2022.

The number is 988. Callers will be directed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a switchboard that provides free crisis counseling and support to more than 2 million callers a year.

Calling 988 will also connect callers to one of more than 180 crisis centers across the United States. 

The current Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will also remain available.

A long, worthwhile process

Stewart told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic that passing the legislation has been an example of how slowly some government functions can take.

 

“We’ve spent the last two years working with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to determine what is the number going to be, can we get the three-digit number, which we were insistent that we did,” Stewart said

And working with other states has been a challenge.

“Some of the other states have not been as forward thinking. They aren’t as prepared as they should be. It does concern me a little bit,” he said.

That concern stems also from the question of whether a new national hotline and those staffing it, are prepared to take the burden from the existing Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

According to press release from Stewart’s office, all telecommunication carriers must provide access to 988 by July 16, 2022. 

What can callers expect?

Stewart said that when someone calls the new 988 number, at the bare minimum they will talk to someone that is trained and professionally capable to respond and assist the caller.

“Somone who has got experience in these types of critical situations,” Stewart said.

The services will vary, state by state. But some of the expected consistencies across the nation will be the ability to send a rescue team consisting of trained health care providers, social workers, and if necessary, police, who could intervene in the most critical situations.

At the same time, states will offer someone like a counselor to listen to a person that needs to talk and can offer help in the form of community contacts.

Stewart expects that at some point in the future, calling 988 with a mental health emergency will become as common as calling 911 has become for other emergencies.

Other suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at Huntsman Mental Health Institute.

You can also text TALK to 741741. Parents, students, and educators can download the SafeUT app chat or call 833-3SAFEUT to connect with a licensed crisis counselor.

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Rep Stewart’s suicide prevention hotline, 988, goes live this week