In Crisis? You Can Call or Text the 988 Mental Health Crisis Hotline

Blues Perspectives

| 3 min read

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Since July of 2022, people struggling with a mental health or substance use crisis — or who are having thoughts of suicide — can call 988.
This new number provides an easier way to connect to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The move to 988 didn't spell the end for the Lifeline number at 1-800-273-8255, which currently connects callers to Lifeline’s network of more than 200 locally operated and funded crisis centers across the country.
Text (English only) will also be available through 988. When someone calls or texts 988, they will be responded to by a crisis counselor from a group of Lifeline crisis centers. The counselor will listen, work to understand the problem, provide support and share resources that may be helpful.
“We were pleased to learn that there will be another lifesaving resource to help people in emotional distress who are coping with mental health and substance use issues,” said Dr. Amy McKenzie, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s vice president for clinical partnerships and associate chief Medical officer.
The bottom line is this: 988 is a shorter, easier-to-remember way to connect to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has been operational since 2005. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission established the 988 number as part of an effort to strengthen and expand the existing Lifeline, which experienced a significant increase in calls following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns led to an increase in the number of people struggling with mental health conditions and substance use disorder,” McKenzie explained. “At Blue Cross, we’ve put many new initiatives in place over the past two years to help our employees and members get the support they need, and the federal government has also been focused on addressing the behavioral health crisis, which amplifies the impact across the country.”
She pointed specifically to the BCBSM behavioral health website, which launched in 2021 as part of the company's behavioral health member engagement campaign. It provides a wide range of information about mental health and substance use conditions, as well as resources employees and members can use to address any behavioral health concerns. For more information about the 988 number, click here to read key messaging from SAMHSA.* You can also visit this link, which redirects you to the 988 Partner Toolkit intended to facilitate partner efforts for collaborative and aligned 988 communication planning.
*Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan doesn’t own or control this website.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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