SPRINGFIELD – People struggling with suicidal thoughts or going through a mental health crisis now only need to remember three numbers to find help around the clock.
The new national crisis support line launched on Saturday. Memorial Behavioral Health, which has taken calls for the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Lifeline for many years, will be taking calls for the new 988 number. The behavioral and mental health agency is one of six certified lifeline centers in Illinois.
Behavioral health experts hope the easy-to-remember number will increase access to mental health services.
“It’s easier for people to remember three digits as opposed to a 10-digit 800 line,” said Diana Knaebe, president of Memorial Behavioral Health. “988 was established to improve access to services to meet our country’s growing suicide and mental health-related crisis needs.”
No matter where they live, people who call 988 will be connected to trained crisis counselors. Memorial Behavioral Health will answer calls from Sangamon, Menard, Logan, Mason, Scott and Christian counties as well as other calls from the 217 area code.
Work is being done at the national level to geo-track incoming calls so callers will be routed to a crisis center closest to them, rather than by area code, Knaebe said.
More than 50 million Americans are living with a mental illness, but fewer than half get treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“Programs like this are an important step in making sure our family, friends and neighbors can access the crucial care they need,” Knaebe said.