MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A big change that just might save someone’s life is coming on Saturday.
On that date, the federal government will establish a new three-digit code for suicide prevention and mental health crisis.
Every eleven minutes in this country someone dies by suicide.
“In 1995, I lost my fiancée at the time to suicide. Most people still think 911 is who you call for a mental health crisis,” said Dr. Doreen Marshall with the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.
“There definitely is a need to have a more consistent easy process to call for help for people who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation or the idea that they might want to end their life,” said Dr. Tammy Tucker with Memorial Healthcare System.
A new three-digit number. 9-8-8. will link people directly to the National Suicide Hotline instead of having to dial the current number which is 800-273-Talk.
“Anything we can do to support people in ways that are simple and easy to remember I think more people are likely to utilize it,” said Tucker.
Tucker said Congress passed ‘9-8-8′ back in 2020, but left it up to the states to fund the program.
Florida is among the states that have approved legislation to get that funding in place.
“So as a community we’ve been very fortunate, Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, which is part of the system of support and care for Broward County, has been working on this and planning for this for well over a year,” Tucker said.
But it will still take time to get staffing in place to handle the calls.
“So we’re talking about a ‘soft’ opening of the 988 number,” Tucker said.
In the end, having an easy-to-remember number is imperative when every second counts.
“We have definitely seen a significant increase in individuals that are seeking help with behavioral health or mental health problems,” Tucker said.
Mental health experts say national and local education campaigns are underway to get the word out about the new 9-8-8 number.