Genesee County, MI—The nation’s 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has been launched for people experiencing mental distress. By calling, texting or chatting on the lifeline, which is free, confidential and available 24/7, individuals will be able to reach a trained mental health professional for help. 

The 988 lifeline went live in mid-July as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-8255 — transitioned to the new 3-digit number. Officials say regardless of where a person resides in the U.S., the 988 lifeline is an entry point for crisis services. 

Carrie Chanter, Genesee Health System’s (GHS) director of prevention, health and wellness, said the 988 lifeline serves as an accessible way for individuals in crisis to seek assistance. 

“It absolutely is a smart, innovative way to try to increase access to these life-saving calls,” Chanter said. She added, “People can remember it quicker, instead of having to pull out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.” 

Anyone in emotional distress, substance use crisis, or with thoughts of suicide, can call the 988 lifeline. The number is also available for individuals who are concerned about a loved one who may need crisis support. 

In Michigan, 1,444 people died by suicide in 2020, with 14 suicide deaths for every 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, there were 1,354 suicide deaths in the state, and the rate was 13.3 suicide deaths per 100,000 individuals. That’s about a 5.3 percent increase in Michigan’s suicide death rate between 2014 and 2020. 

As part of an ongoing effort to streamline and expand mental health services across the nation, the 988 lifeline builds on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s network of crisis call centers. The 800 digit remains active indefinitely, and people receive the same services with both numbers. 

Local resources are also available for crisis support, and people can reach GHS’ Crisis Hotline at 1-810-257-3740 or textline by texting FLINT at 741741, services that are free, confidential and available 24/7.

Whether it be the 988 lifeline or GHS’ crisis lines, Chanter noted that “everyone on the other line are compassionate, professional, caring individuals that want to help you with any sort of mental health crisis or substance use crisis that you’re having.” 

In the meantime, there are various GHS programs that aim to educate the public on suicide prevention. For instance, GHS has been running a media campaign to raise awareness about suicide prevention and its behavioral health services since 2020.

That year, GHS also began offering the LivingWorks Start program for training in crisis responses. The program, along with the Question, Persuade, Refer program, are available to the public for free.

Looking ahead, Chanter said GHS is planning to establish a suicide prevention coalition, including stakeholders in the county like residents, schools, law enforcement and healthcare providers, to offer resources and care for communities.

For more information about crisis services and suicide prevention, visit the websites of GHS and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Individuals can reach the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 and pressing 1. 

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...