Community Psychiatry’s Leela Magavi, M.D. was featured in Verywell Mind discussing the impact of establishing a new 3-digit National Suicide Hotline.

New Law Establishes 988 As National Suicide Hotline

By: Jo Yurcaba | October 26, 2020

The hotline will become active in 2022, and will replace 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), which is the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Some experts say the change will help reach more people as calls to emotional support hotlines have increased in recent years, particularly during the pandemic. Others are wary it will place additional stress on crisis centers that are already overwhelmed and underfunded.

Expanding The Lifeline Could “Save Lives”

Having a crisis line that’s only three digits is important, simply because it will be easier to remember, says Leela Magavi, MD, regional medical director of Community Psychiatry. Often, people experiencing anxiety or depression have problems with working memory and processing, she says.

“People have access to the hotline numbers and crisis numbers, but they’re very long numbers,” Magavi says. “And when you’re in so much pain, you need something simple, just like 911. So 988 will be very easy for individuals and their loved ones to remember, so we can save lives.”

Magavi says that she has patients with autism who have struggled with insomnia, depression, and anxiety due to interactions with police. “I think 988 will alleviate that anxiety to initiate and make that step to call for help,” Magavi says. “A lot of people do not call 911 because… they’re scared about what might happen, if their loved one will be handcuffed or be traumatized.” Negative interactions with police can even lead to an increased risk for suicide, she says.

A Larger Broken System

Even if crisis centers were to receive more funding, Stage says there are other systemic problems with how the Lifeline operates and the ways we talk about suicide in the United States.

The coronavirus pandemic complicates the creation of 988 even more. The line won’t be available until 2022, but Magavi says there is definitely a need now. “The individuals I’m working with, some of them have conveyed to me that this is the most painful period of their lives,” she says.

Click here to read more at Verywell Mind.

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