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Resource: The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (988)
This post is part of the accompanying tips, resources, interviews with experts, and stories of recovery included in the exclusive serialization of Cured: The Memoir. Become a free subscriber.
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*For helplines in Canada, go here.
The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline isn’t new, but this is the first time it’s had a three-digit number to call: 988.
It’s run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and a private company called Vibrant Emotional Health to serve those experiencing suicidality or other psychiatric crises. If you call 988, you’ll reach a counselor who’s trained to listen, speak with those in crisis, and try to help them find out how best to keep themselves safe.
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline also offers the Crisis Text Line, a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7 and confidential.
Both try to prevent police involvement, forced treatment at emergency rooms, and involuntary hospitalization, which can lead to trauma and are of particular concern for people of color and those in the LGBT+ community. John Draper, executive director of the hotline and vice president at the company that runs 988, told NPR, “We know the best way for a person to remain safe from harm is for them to be empowered and to choose to be safe from harm.”
Criticisms of 988 tend to perpetuate the myth that it doesn’t lessen the risk of involvement by emergency and police services. In truth, according to SAMHSA and Vibrant Health, emergency services are dispatched for just 2 percent of calls.
Should you and your loved ones call 988? As NPR explains, if you aren’t an imminent danger to yourself, 988 is unlikely to call law enforcement without your consent; if you are, police may be called, and you could be taken to a hospital involuntarily.
To read more about 988, go here.
Read the prequel to Cured. Pathological (HarperCollins 2022) was an Apple Best Books pick, hailed in The New York Times as a “fiery manifesto of a memoir,” and named one of the sixteen best mental health memoirs to read by Parade Magazine. It was featured on NPR, Oprah Daily, Salon, Forbes, The Los Angeles Times, and more.
Read all available chapters of Cured.