Comment: 988 hotline will speed help in times of crisis

The three-digit number will connect those at risk for suicide with crisis counselors and resources.

By Cierra Lucas / For The Herald

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a volunteer and advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this month I am asking everyone to join us and demand #MoreForMentalHealth.

Legislation to implement a nationwide 988 crisis line was passed in the Washington legislature last year and is now pending in Congress in H.R. 7116. These bills are more important than they are credited for. I’ve used the national suicide prevention hotline, and they have helped save my life in situations that others did not have the time to help de-escalate. In times of crisis, when you feel like no one else is there to care, those that work and volunteer, do what they do because they care. They want you to live, to have a life, and to be able to find the right kind of help. The other services that can be found after a crisis are very useful once you have a direction.

Please understand, that while friends and family members may not always understand what you are going through, there is help out there. When you find yourself alone, and thinking about doing the unthinkable, call! It takes time to get better, and hard work, but there is hope; there are solutions, even when you feel like there aren’t.

I am doing more by calling on my legislators at the federal and state levels to support legislation that will fund the implementation of 988 and the suicide and mental health crisis system across our nation, particularly for those in underserved communities.

Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 800-273-8255 and de-escalates the crises of tens of thousands of callers each day. As of July 16, those in distress and those that support them will be able to reach the Lifeline through a simple 3-digit number: 988. By making the Lifeline more accessible through this shorter number, calls, texts and chats to the Lifeline’s network of crisis call centers are expected to increase.

It is vital that the federal government work with states to ensure callers in distress will have: someone to call, someone to come help, and somewhere safe to go. We must act now to secure funding to equip call centers and community crisis response services throughout the country with the staff and resources to respond to everyone in crisis.

Join me this month in urging our federal and state public officials to do #MoreForMentalHealth. You can start by visiting moreformentalhealth.org.

Together, we can help #StopSuicide.

Cierra Lucas lives in Bremerton.

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