CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas —
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now 988.
Corpus Christi Fire Department fire marshal Randy Paige said the new, shorter number will help bring attention to much-needed mental health resources.
“I think it’s just going to create a lot of opportunities to prevent suicide,” Paige said. "Prior to our son taking his own life in 2015, I didn’t even know there was a national hotline number, you know. And people that aren’t experiencing it right now don’t know that."
Paige said he never thought something like that would happen to his own family. He wants people to learn from his experience and understand the importance of saying something when you are not okay. Dr. Theresa Sharpe at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi said just knowing what resources are available can help.
“Often when a person’s in crisis, their first stop is not a counselor’s office, they may not know that those resources exist," said Dr. Theresa Sharpe, director of the TAMU-CC University Counseling Center. "But, if they can have access to a crisis line, that’s something they can access 24/7.”
The national hotline will shorten from the previous 1-800-273-8255 phone number. Paige said shortening the number should help with remembering it, just like 911, and help more people be comfortable talking about mental health.
“Unless you’ve been through, in a family where you’ve had someone that’s taken their own life, you just don’t think about it that much and a lot of people don’t want to talk about it,” Paige said.
According to Sharpe, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students. The Island University’s three-year, $360,000 campus suicide prevention grant from SAMHSA is set to help change that.
“When we work with students here they’ll say, you know, I’ve thought about coming for months or even years and finally I got the courage to come," Dr. Sharpe said. "But, I think with all the publicity about 988, it’s just letting people know that help is available.”
While many may be embarrassed to admit they need help, Paige said there is nothing to be ashamed of.
“I think somebody that takes the time to call 988 or to reach out for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength," Paige said. "I mean, it tells me that, hey, they have identified there’s something wrong, but they don’t want to end their life. They want somebody to help them."