Editor: May is Mental Health Month. By urging my public officials to prioritize suicide prevention, mental health, and crisis care, I am hoping to influence collective change to support mental health for all.
Right now, individuals in crisis are able to call (800) 273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and those that care for them.
Soon, it will be much easier to remember how to reach the Lifeline, as the number will be changing to “988” nationwide by July 2022.
It is critically important that states pass legislation NOW to reliably fund 988 and their state’s crisis response system, just as we fund 911 and emergency services – through small fees on our phone bills.
Reliable funding will help to ensure all 988 callers can reach a counselor in their own state who is familiar with and can connect them with local resources. Culturally-competent support and local connections can better help all callers through their crises and in their recoveries.
As both a survivor of suicide loss and a medical provider, I know first-hand the consequences of inadequate access to emergency services during mental-health crises. I want to ensure that no one in crisis loses their life because the phone-wait time was too long or because they could not easily navigate local resources to get the help they needed.
We know that suicide can be prevented by connecting those in distress to life-saving resources without delay. Amplifying this message of urgency to properly fund “988” strengthens our collective efforts and highlights the supportive attitudes of our community.
We all play a role in changing the culture around mental health. Join me this month in urging public officials to fund “988.”
Alexandra Walker, Alexandria