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'It's okay to not be okay': Universal suicide hotline, 988, officially launches in Kentucky

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or is in need of mental health help, you can call the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. The 10-digit number will remain active, even after 988 launches on July 16.
Posted at 12:30 PM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 20:15:06-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — There's a new number to call for help: 9-8-8. This three-digit number offers quick help for suicidal thoughts and other mental health emergencies.

"The Commonwealth is joining states across the nation in implementing the simple three-digit suicide and mental health crisis lifeline," said Governor Andy Beshear on Monday.

988 is the United States’ first nationwide three-digit mental health crisis hotline. It's meant to replace the national suicide hotline, but calls to the old lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, will still go through even with 988 in place.

988 is designed to be as easy to remember and use as 911. However, instead of a dispatcher sending police, firefighters or paramedics, 988 will connect callers with trained mental health counselors.

Mental health advocates say it's critically important to get people going through a mental health crisis immediate help.

"I made my first suicide attempt when I was in elementary school, and I made the last suicide attempt when I was in college," said Geneva Robinson. "The only thing that made the difference was in college, someone got me help at the time I needed it most. Not when it was convenient, not when they figured out where they might send me or when they had enough time on their hands, and not quietly. Someone made it easy and available for me to get the help I need. If they hadn't, I wouldn't be standing here today. So, I'm living proof that when we make services accessible to people, when we make it easy for people to get those services that they need, we save lives."

988 launched on Saturday and Kentucky has already seen a 30% increase in people getting help. 220 calls were made to 988 in Kentucky, and the state expects that number to grow as more people learn about 988.