By Pat Carragher - July 25, 2022
This story contains a discussion of suicide, self-harming behavior, and depression and references other mental health disorders that may act as triggers. Continue at your own discretion.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, help is now just three digits away. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline rebranded with a new name and phone number. You can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, where you’ll be connected with mental health professionals trained to respond to emergencies.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across the United States. The Lifeline is comprised of a national network of over 200 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices, according to the website.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is now live! If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health or substance use-related crisis, call or text 988, or chat https://t.co/EiVLtZjvdX #988Lifeline pic.twitter.com/vEr4gKfy5k— Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D. (@SAMHSA_Leader) July 16, 2022
The previous 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK (8255), will still connect callers with the same services. The new three-digit number is expected to be easier to remember during an emergency. It is also meant to help cut down on 911 calls related to mental health emergencies because 911 typically connects callers to law enforcement rather than mental health professionals.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, specially trained social workers are available to provide the support, guidance and resources needed to help cope with and manage so many aspects that come with a diagnosis of cancer. During a patient’s clinic appointments and when they are admitted to Moffitt, a trained team member will ask about their distress and coping. If there are concerns that cause distress, they will offer the services of our clinical social workers to make sure patients can get the help they need.
“We have a patient population that is going through an extremely difficult diagnosis and additionally, they may have a co-occurring mental health diagnosis, too,” said Molly Baker, an outpatient social worker at Moffitt. “What they’re going through is intense and can exacerbate some of the symptoms that they may already have, whether it’s depression or another mental health diagnosis. Sometimes patients do have thoughts of life not being worth living. While we assess that and encourage them to speak with us, they also have 988 Lifeline as a valuable resource if they need it.”
In addition to offering help over the phone, people dealing with a mental health crisis can also text 988 or chat with trained professionals at 988Lifeline.org.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends all patients with cancer who are 18 and older be routinely evaluated for depression and anxiety during their cancer journey. Failure to identify and treat depression and anxiety can increase the risk of poor quality of life and potentially increase disease-related morbidity and mortality.
A Moffitt pilot program launched in 2021 to identify patients who experience emotional suffering and quickly get them the support that they need. Patients in the Head and Neck, Radiation Oncology, Supportive Care and Behavioral Medicine clinics are given a questionnaire to assess their mental health and psychosocial distress. A licensed social worker follows up with patients who indicate suicidal thoughts. The cancer center plans to assess the pilot and broaden support to other programs.
In the meantime, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a resource available to everyone in need.
“It’s important for our patients to know that the Lifeline is not just for suicidal ideation,” said Baker. “It’s for all types of mental health crises, whether it’s substance use, extreme anxiety or feeling like you’re having a panic attack. Any type of mental health crisis or emotional distress, they can contact 988 and it’s a simple way to get help.”