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988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to support Michiganders in mental health emergencies

A person with light olive skin holds a smart phone on one hand and prepares to dial.
Penghao Xiong
Starting July 16, 2022, those experiencing a mental health crisis can dial 988 to receive mental health support.

People experiencing a mental health crisis now have a new way to quickly receive help. It's through the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

The 988 line is an easy to remember three-digit number designed to help those struggling with suicidal thoughts, emotional distress of any kind or a substance use emergency.

Dr. Debra Pinals, the medical director of behavioral health and forensic programs at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says the number is meant to be an accessible resource.

"We know with the pandemic, there has been a lot more emotional distress generally," she said. "And so it's really an exciting time to be able to have a new three digit number that will be easy to remember and accessible to the public."

The 988 lifeline was launched across the country on Saturday to connect people to an existing network of local crisis call centers. Before the launch, callers in Michigan could dial 1-800-273-8255  to receive mental health support and referrals for resources in the state.

Pinals says the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will work in tandem with existing state resources.

"The goal is to have, by far, the majority of the calls answered by Michigan responders who are familiar with Michigan resources," she said.

The Michigan Crisis and Access Line was funded by the state legislature back in 2020 to develop a statewide call center for people in need of mental health resources.

"In doing so, the Michigan Legislature gave Michigan a head start in developing a comprehensive statewide call center," Pinals added.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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