On Saturday, July 16, 9-8-8
, the 9-1-1 alternative designed specifically for mental health crises, was launched across the country. Ahead of the rollout, many predicted there’d be kinks and flaws with the hotline
, which is a reboot of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL), designed to be much easier to remember in a crisis than the original 1-800 number. And those so-called “kinks” with 9-8-8 seemed to get a lot more attention than the good the line can do after the number launched. Perhaps the most concerning issue with 9-8-8 was that, in some cases, police will be called
to respond to 9-8-8 calls — for example, if the person answering thinks you’re at risk of harming yourself and others (which was also true when you called the previous NSPL 1-800 line). This police or Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
involvement may be consensual or not. This news was surprising to many, as 9-8-8 has been touted as a way to help reduce
harmful police interventions in mental health emergencies. And while it very well might do that, many said the fact that police or other emergency responders can be called at all was under-advertised.