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988 mental health hotline now available to anyone in crisis

New suicide prevention hotline now available to anyone
New suicide prevention hotline now available to anyone 02:14

A new suicide prevention hotline went live on Saturday, providing a place to call for anyone dealing with a mental health crisis.

The number to the suicide crisis hotline is 9-8-8. 

The new three-digit number is easy to remember and instantly connects callers with operators who can help with crisis counseling and other important services.

The hotline is billed as an alternative to calling 911 for people experiencing mental health emergencies. 

Trained Los Angeles County mental health counselors answered urgent calls on the first day of the launch.

"The hope is that ultimately one day 988 is as ubiquitous as 911 so that people know in a mental health crisis if somebody needs to speak with somebody, they can call that number from anywhere in the country and reach someone 24 hours a day," Shari Sinwelski, Vice President of crisis care for Didi Hirsch mental health services.

Didi Hirsch mental health services already runs a suicide prevention center and teamed up with the LA County Department of Mental Health to serve as 988's local provider.

The service offers more than just phone counseling depending on the caller's need.

"We have psychiatric mobile response teams, what we call our PMR teams that are available right now between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. so they can be dispatched from the call center in the event that we need an in person assessment or in person intervention," Connie Draxler, the chief deputy director of LA County's mental health department, said.

According to LA County's latest data, 865 people died by suicide in 2019. That was down from 947 in 2018.

Health officials said that since the pandemic, there has been an increase in interest for mental health services and that the new hotline will be vital in helping save even more lives.  

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