988 suicide lifeline goes live Saturday

A new suicide hotline will be put into place this coming Saturday.
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 5:49 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Dr. Jeffrey Johnston worked at a suicide crisis line during his time in graduate school.

“We had people calling from all over the state of Missouri all of the time,” Dr. Johnston said.

To reach the suicide lifeline, the number to dial was 1-800-273-8255.

“When people are in a state of crisis, they need to be able to access help quickly,” Johnston said.

Starting Saturday, July 16th, it will only take three digits to reach the same lifeline.

“Call 988,” Licensed Counselor Matthew Tompkins said.

According to Tompkins, the suicide lifeline is meant to be easily accessible to those who need it.

“That line is not just for ‘This is my last moment of life’ it’s for ‘I don’t know where else to turn, I don’t know who else to talk to about this, I don’t feel safe talking about this to whoever my inner circle is, maybe there’s someone there that’ll listen,’” Tompkins said.

One of the experts involved in creating the 988 lifeline is Dr. Bart Andrews. He is the Vice President of Behavioral Health Response.

“We are acknowledging that behavior health crisis’ are just as important as other health crisis’,” Dr. Andrews said.

The conversation of having a three digit dialing code for the lifeline started when suicides were increasing around the United States.

“The goal was to create the same level of access and urgency that 911 has for behavior and suicide crisis,” Andrews said.

Tompkins, Dr. Andrews, and Dr. Johnston all agreed that this number change is a huge push forward for mental health. Dr. Johnston said suicide should not be a topic people are scared to talk about.

“They think they are planting an idea in someone’s head,” Dr. Johnston said. “That’s not the correct way of thinking. Most people that are having suicidal thoughts really are relieved when somebody brings it up so that they can openly talk about it.”

The full suicide lifeline phone number will still work even after 988 launches this weekend.

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