Landmark Legislation Sets Up National Emergency Line for Mental Health Support
By Susan Gaffney, Vice President of Membership, Development, and Operations
In October, President Donald Trump signed bipartisan legislation to establish a three-digit national emergency line for mental health crises (National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, S. 2661), which is set to go live in July 2022.
Millions of Americans are impacted by anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, and this new resource will provide needed relief. The new 9-8-8 line will replace the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which has seen a steady increase in use over the past decade.
Individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, their friends and family, and the general public will be able to call 9-8-8 and get help. This easy to remember and use number will encourage people to reach out when they need support.
There is consensus that easy accessibility to support will increase help-seeking. The type of support 9-8-8 operators will provide is significantly differently than the support offered by 9-1-1 operators. This new resource will allow individuals in crisis to get mental health support rather than immediate involvement with law enforcement. As such, it will also provide relief to law enforcement who are not always trained and equipped to deal with mental health crises.
The legislation won the support and praise of a broad diversity of mental health advocates, including several NHC member organizations.
This new, national emergency line will help all patients with chronic diseases and disabilities. Of people who took a Mental Health America screening, those with chronic health conditions had high rates of scoring positive or at risk for mental health conditions. This includes 75 percent of respondents with heart disease, 73 percent of respondents with cancer, and 80 percent of respondents with COPD.