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Mental health emergency? Call 988 | FIU News


By Maya Washburn

FIU students and anyone else who may need it can now access a three-digit phone number that provides professional help during a mental health emergency.

Congress recently rolled out a new mental health emergency hotline to combat the escalating nationwide mental health crisis. People all over the nation now have access to a free, immediate and easy-to-remember number to call for struggles they may face.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is designed to provide 24/7 confidential support to those struggling with suicidal ideation, addiction or any other mental health issue. It connects callers with a trained mental health counselor from one of 200 crisis centers across the nation.

The previous hotline answered 3.6 million calls, chats and messages in 2021, whereas with the introduction of 988, the phone number is expected to receive to 7.6 million contacts this year, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Todd Lengnick, director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at FIU, said that 988 is a helpful resource that students should utilize. A separate FIU-supported hotline number is also available.

Lengnick noted that in the past few years, people have become more comfortable talking about their mental health issues, leading to an increased number reaching out for help.

“Folks in their 20s today have grown up in a society where school shootings exist, there has been an increase in attention to social injustice and an incredible divide along political lines in this country,” Lengnick said. “So there’s a lot to be stressed about. I would say it’s important that folks have access to resources when they need them. From that standpoint, I’m glad 988 is there.”

Lengnick pointed out the importance of having an emergency phone option as opposed to calling 911 when facing a mental health emergency.

“There’s a certain level of expertise that goes into mental health support,” Lengnick explained. “With 988, that’s what they do, whereas the range of crises that the police serve are infinite. There’s no way for the police to be as well-trained in mental health support. That’s the primary function of the people answering calls to 988.”

Ashley Bouza, a junior studying psychology at FIU, said that the shortening of the emergency number significantly adds to its accessibility. 

“I find it really important that the 988 number exists now,” Bouza said. “As a college student, I have come across a few peers of mine that have been at points in their life where they would have utilized the hotline.”

Bouza considers herself an advocate for such resources.

“I’ve been at a point in my life where I was at my lowest,” she said, “and I could have needed some extra help with some things.”



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