Shorter suicide hotline number 988 in the works

Kathryn Haeffner, an emergency service counselor, provides guidance during follow-up call at the crisis call center in the DuPage County Health Department on Jan. 6 in Wheaton, Illinois. 

An easy-to-remember, three-digit number similar to 911 for those contemplating suicide could save lives, experts say, but it also represents a symbolic shift in a still stigmatized world — that mental health emergencies are just as important as physical ones.

But the ease of the new number and improved access should also come with additional funding for mental health services, according to mental health advocates. Both concepts are represented in pending federal legislation that would eventually establish 988 as the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which currently is longer: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

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