Mental Health Awareness Month: 988 and Suicide Prevention

The photograph shows lettered tiles in black and white spelling out the words "Mental Health Matters" against the background of a black and silver quartz countertop.

By Laura Torres

Have you or someone you know and love ever experienced symptoms of depression resulting in contemplating ending your/their life? Chances are you, or someone you know, has had these thoughts and experienced feelings of hopelessness and overwhelming sadness.

Suicide and attempted suicide are widespread in this country. Suicide was the twelfth leading cause of overall death in the United States in 2020, claiming the lives of more than 45,900 people. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among 10 to 14 year olds and 25 to 34 year olds, and the fourth leading cause for people between the ages of 35 and 44 (NIH).

In 2020 alone, the US had one death by suicide every 11 minutes. Despite the prevalence, suicide is a topic that most people feel uncomfortable talking about; one that, unfortunately, carries a great deal of stigma. Those suffering in silence often do not reach out for and receive the help they need, when they need it. A person struggling with thoughts and feelings of suicide is in a deeply painful and dark place, often not knowing how or where to turn for assistance and relief.

The image lists Howard County and surrounding jurisdictions (Baltimore City and County, Carroll County) and reads "Looking for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline? You can now reach us at 988. Call 988. We're here to help." in white letters against a purple background. "988" is highlighted in orange.

In July of 2022, to provide a resource – indeed, a lifeline – for those struggling, the federal government mandated that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline change its ten digits to a new, 3-digit number: 988. Making this change has increased awareness, providing more equitable and accessible crisis services to people across the country. The 988 helpline is confidential, free, and available 24/7/365 for anyone experiencing mental health, substance use, or suicidal crisis.

Trained mental health counselors are available through landlines, cell services, and voice-over-internet devices for conversations on the phone or through texts and chats. The counselors are available to listen to each caller, assess their level of need, identify whether they are in a crisis state, and provide them with the connections and resources to help. 988 is a helpline for everyone, of any age, anywhere in the US, regardless of their situation and circumstances.

It is sometimes difficult to know who is suffering or how to help those struggling with overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, grief, and/or any number of other stressors and emotional challenges. For this reason, it is important and necessary for everyone in our communities to share the 988 resource with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues – everyone in our social circles. No one is alone in their struggle. Help is here.

In partnership with Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, HCLS Miller Branch is offering QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Suicide Prevention Training Monday, May 15 at 6:30 pm. Some key components of QPR training include:

  • How to help someone who is considering suicide
  • The common causes of suicidal behavior
  • The warning signs of suicide
  • How to get help for someone in a suicide crisis

Register here for this training, specifically designed for people who do not have experience in suicide intervention.

In light of HCLS’ community partnership with Howard County General Hospital, Chapter Chats is pleased to have Laura Torres, LCSW-C, as a guest blogger today. Laura is the Behavioral Health Program Manager with the Population Health Department at Howard County General Hospital.

One thought on “Mental Health Awareness Month: 988 and Suicide Prevention

  1. This article sheds light on an important topic concerning mental health and suicide. The author provides valuable information about the recent change in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number and also offers training options for suicide prevention. This article is a helpful resource for individuals looking to support and assist those struggling with suicidal thoughts.
    founder of balance thy life

    Liked by 1 person

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