The 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline goes live on Saturday on the Seacoast and across the United States, but New Hampshire residents will still have a second option for crisis assistance.

Dialing or texting 988 will connect a caller experiencing suicidal thoughts or struggling with emotional distress, or for those worried about a friend to loved one, to trained counselors who are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network.

An online chat is also available at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.

The new number was designated by Congress in 2020 and was the reason that all phone numbers dialed must now include an area code. Similar to calling 911 for emergency response, the three-digit number is easy to remember for individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts or struggling with emotional distress, or for those worried about a friend or loved one.

New Hampshire's Department of Health & Human Services will continue to offer its New Hampshire Rapid Response at 833-710-6477. It can deploy mobile crisis teams to meet people in person with more intensive needs. As of May, 2022, mobile crisis teams have been deployed 2,840 times.

“New Hampshire remains committed to providing streamlined access to mental health support services, and providing on demand assistance through 988 is another positive step in that direction,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement.

Beacon Health Options, the company that has been handling Rapid Reponse calls will also answer 988 calls in New Hampshire.

“Our immediate goal is to help alleviate the distress for the caller in crisis and then improve their overall experience accessing care by actively connecting them or scheduling the services they need to better manage the crisis and their condition long-term,” Beacon’s crisis leader Wendy Farmer said in a statement. “We believe this approach can help decrease the strain on emergency rooms and law enforcement.”

Comparison between National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and NH Rapid Response
Comparison between National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and NH Rapid Response (NHDDS)
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Call 988 for a Mental Health Emergency

Kellie Mueller, Assistant Vice President of Behavioral Health Services at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, said the 988 number will especially help during an emergency situation when things are moving very fast. Like dialing 911 for an emergency situation, 988 will become known as the number to call for a mental health emergency.

"If someone is experiencing a mental health crisis they have to think 'I'm sure there's a phone number for this. Maybe there's somebody I can call. I wonder what that number is. I have to go look it up and it's a 10 digit phone number.' That might be enough to deter someone from making a phone call."

Callers will be able to speak with someone immediately without having to leave a voicemail or speak with an answering service about what might have triggered their personal crisis.

"The ability to quickly reach a person in a moment of crisis is important, whether that crisis is 'I feel acutely suicidal' or that crisis is 'my boyfriend just broke up with me and I'm feeling a little bit sad but I have no one to talk to'. That immediacy is important," Mueller said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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