Three New Digits That Can Save a Life: 9-8-8

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READING TIME: 4 min.

Lifeline, 9-8-8, Suicide Prevention, Teens, Mental HealthAs of July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is accessible in a new way. These three new digits can save a life: 9-8-8. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides crisis services for emotional distress or suicidal crisis. Note: The previous Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will continue to remain active and available. 

People can call or TEXT 9-8-8 and be connected with trained counselors through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. You may also utilize a chat feature at 988lifeline.org. The 9-8-8 website states “trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.” 

When a Crisis Arises, Are You Prepared? 

Crisis. The word that no parent wants to have describing their family or their child. And yet the second-leading cause of death for those ages 15–24 is suicide (Cohen, 2022).

Does your teen know where to turn if they find themselves feeling hopeless (or have a friend who is)? 

A few short months ago Harry Miller, an Ohio State offensive lineman, discussed his mental health journey in light of his medical retirement. Miller stated, “This is not an issue reserved for the far and away.” He continued, noting, “It is in our homes. It is in our conversations. It is in the people we love.” 

May we take pause and recognize that mental health does not discriminate. As parents, we should remain proactive, vigilant, and even on the hardest days, a team. 9-8-8 is a resource for people of all ages, but the emphasis today is educating our tweens and teens on this emotional crisis resource. May we cultivate safe and open relationships with our children of all ages so that they feel seen, heard, and loved no matter what. 

Talk to your children about utilizing 9-8-8 if they find themselves in crisis and are unable to reach out to other support people for help. Ultimately, we want to make sure children understand that if they are unable to keep themselves safe, or if you as the parent are aware of the crisis, DO NOT WAIT. Immediately call 9-1-1 or take your child to the nearest emergency room. 

What Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Suicide

Stay Curious 

Consistently check in with your children especially when they appear okay (yes, most especially this population who often has a greater difficulty reaching out for help). Check in when they no longer are enjoying things they used to enjoy or are unusually withdrawn or isolating. Ask the questions, show up, make it known that you care by both your presence and your words.

Related: Teenage Mental Health: Common vs. Concerning Behaviors

Normalize Talking About the Tough Stuff Free of Judgment

This includes you. It can be empowering for teens to see that their parents aren’t perfect and experience a range of emotions as well. 

Talk About Mental Health

Consider bringing on a mental health therapist for an added layer of support. Therapy is a safe space for tweens, teens, and parents to talk about and work through stressors and concerns that teens may not feel comfortable talking about with family members. 

Create a Support Plan 

Include healthy coping tools your tweens and teens can utilize when they are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with daily routines. Work together to build out their plan so they have a road map of what they can do and who they can reach out to for support when needed. 

Never Assume Your Teen is Just Being Dramatic

Stay calm—this will most likely be extremely difficult as the parent, but it’s so important. You can regulate and process your own emotions later. Focus on validating your child’s emotions and experiences and shifting to professional help. This moment will not last forever.

It may sound something like this “You feel like there’s nothing left; you must be hurting so much. I’m here for you, we can figure this out together. There is help.”

Reach Out for Professional Help Right Away

If you are concerned or worried about your child outside of an immediate crisis, reach out to their pediatrician, psychiatrist, or mental health therapist. 

Additional Resources

Grant Halliburton Foundation 

9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

National Alliance on Mental Health

References utilized in addition to the links above: 

  1. (Cohen, Sandy. Suicide rate highest among teens and young adults. UCLA Health. 2022 Mar.)
  2. (Dazzi T, Gribble R, Wessely S, Fear NT. Does asking about suicide and related behaviours induce suicidal ideation? What is the evidence? Psychol Med. 2014 Dec.)
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Meagan is a born and raised Texan who found her way to Dallas after growing up outside city limits off a little red dirt road. While attending SMU, earning a master’s degree in counseling, Meagan met her husband, James, and sealed her fate as a city girl. She is a mom of two wildly hilarious and adorable toddlers, Eloise and Bennett. Meagan owns a Dallas-based private practice, Navy & Dot, where she is a practicing clinician focusing on supporting children, teens and young adult women with disordered eating, eating disorders and grief and loss. Meagan aspires to educate families on making space for play, while helping families find new rhythms and routines that bring simplicity and joy back into sometimes rushed and busy lifestyles. Meagan is an active member of the Junior League of Dallas, and loves trying new restaurants in search of the best chips and salsa.

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