In 2020, the FCC designated the phone-number "988" as a nationwide mental health crisis and suicide prevention hotline.

Now, in less than a month, people across the country will have easy access to seek help during a mental health emergency.

Foundation 2 Crisis Services in Cedar Rapids and CommUnity Crisis Services in Iowa City are two of the centers tapped to answers phone-calls made throughout the state.

988 is set to launch on July 16th. All calls are free and confidential. Right now, the uphill battle for the hotline is publicity.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is not only mainstream, but was further made popular when rapper Logic made a song called "1-800-273-8255." 988 isn't near that level of notoriety yet.

According to a director at Linn County's National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 77% of people don't know about the phone number yet, despite it being less than a month away from rolling out. The hotline is multi-dimensional as well. It not only allows calls but also connection to a crisis counselor via Lifeline chat, which is under the umbrella of Suicide Prevention.

In effort to assure they have an adequate number of counselors, Foundation 2 is looking for more people to help pick up the phone. Should a person's call not be able to be answered in-state, it will be rerouted to another center in the state.

However, the goal overtime is to mimic 911 insofar that every call will be answered locally, so nearby services/guidance can be provided.

I've seen first-hand that mental illness is as real as a broken leg. Mental breakdowns can be as scary as any other situation that requires medical attention. The stigma is being shattered with each passing day. The access to help is becoming unprecedented. There's more work to be done, but having a three-digit phone number to call is an enormous step in the right direction.

Photo Credit: Marcel Strauß, Unsplash
Photo Credit: Marcel Strauß, Unsplash

Let's hope these organizations continue finding the committed professionals they need in order to operate and continue saving precious lives.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255. Dialing 988 will put you in contact with a crisis counselor, effective July 16th.

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