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State starts 988 hotline for mental health emergencies

If you or a loved one is in crisis, dial 988.

Effective July 16, people with a mental health emergency can call, text or chat 988 and connect with trained suicide prevention and mental health crisis lifeline counselors. The 3-digit direct number is available 24/7 where counselors provide free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Did you know the suicide rate in the U.S. has increased 30 percent since 1999, that one in five people above the age of 12 experience a mental health condition, and that suicide is now the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34?

For every one person who dies by suicide annually, 316 people seriously consider suicide but go on to live.

The Trust for America’s Health, based in Washington, D.C., published in its annual report that deaths associated with alcohol, drugs and suicide took the lives of 186,763 Americans in 2020, a 20 percent one year increase in the combined death rate and the highest number of substance misuse deaths ever recorded for a single year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Vital Statistics System, in 2020 Nevada reported a 26 percent drug overdose death rate and an 18.2 percent suicide rate. Like so many other states, Nevada lacks a strong mental health and treatment infrastructure.

In October 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 was signed into law and required the Federal Communications Commission to establish 988 as the new, nationwide, 3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors. The rules require all phone service providers to direct all 988 calls to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16. The lifeline answered more than 2.1 million calls and 234,671 chats in 2020.

The 988 crisis help line will:

■ Connect a person in a mental health crisis to a trained counselor who can address their immediate needs and help connect them to ongoing care.

■ Reduce health care spending with more cost-effective early intervention.

■ Reduce use of law enforcement, public health and other safety resources.

■ Meet the growing need for crisis intervention.

■ Help end the stigma toward those seeking or accessing mental health care.

The help line is confidential, effective and safe.

To Your Health is provided by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bchcares.org.

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