September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and if you’ve ever experienced thoughts of suicide, you’re certainly not alone. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 12% of teens in 2020 has serious thoughts of suicide — that translates to about 3 million people in crisis. Luckily, suicide is preventable, and help is available if you or someone you know is considering it.
In July, the federal government made suicide prevention resources more accessible when they transitioned the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to the easy-to-remember three-digit number, 988. Previously, the line had been a full 1-800 number, but the move to the shorter number that echoes 911 was designed to make it easier for people in crisis to remember what numbers to dial. (Dialing the old number, 1-800-273-8255, still works and will connect you to the same resources as 988.)
If you call the Lifeline, you’ll be connected to a trained crisis counselor at a help center near you. That counselor will listen to you, and help you access further assistance should you need it.
Critically, 988 is not the same as calling 911. According to Wired, most people who contact 988 will have no interaction with police, which may make people who are concerned about police violence in a mental health crisis more likely to reach out. Wired noted, however, that the hotline may dispatch police to the caller’s home in “rare cases” when it’s deemed necessary.
More Mental Health Resources
If you or someone you know is having suicidal ideation, there are other suicide prevention resources available. You could talk to a trusted friend or adult. It’s important to remember that your friends or family don’t have the same crisis training a professional does, so they can’t handle this situation on their own. Instead, they can keep you company until you’re out of crisis, help you find professional help, or simply provide a listening ear.
If you’re not immediately in danger, you might consider a change of scenery to stop yourself from ruminating on suicidal thoughts, or making a list of things worth living for — and, while it might feel otherwise, there are a lot of things worth living for, and you’re worthy of each and every good thing that will come your way.
How to Get Help
Seeking out professional help is a big and important step in improving your mental health. If you’re trying to find a therapist, we have great news for you: Mental health treatment works.
There are many options for therapy, including in-person treatment, mental health apps, or tele-health therapy. If you have insurance, your provider can usually help point you to in-network providers. If you don’t have insurance, there are still options available, you just have to know what you can afford. Places like community clinics and some private providers offer sliding-scale fees.