By Kevan M. Abrahams
Minority Leader, Nassau County Legislature
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, substance abuse or any type of mental health crisis, you are not alone. You matter more than you know - and there are trained, compassionate professionals who want to assist you during these difficult times. By calling or texting 988, you can take the first step toward getting the help that you deserve.
On July 16 of this year, 988 became America’s three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Individuals who call or text 988 are connected to a trained crisis counselor who can provide access to vital life-sustaining resources and support. Interpretation services are available in more than 150 languages, and a web-chat service is available at 988lifeline.org.
Since being established in 2005, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has grown into a network of more than 200 crisis centers for Americans experiencing a mental health crisis. In 2017, the rapper Logic’s powerful hit single “1-800-273-8255” - the Lifeline’s main line at the time - gained international attention for this indispensable resource and helped to make the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline a household name.
Five years later, America now has a 911 equivalent for mental health emergencies, and that is an important reflection of how the discussion continues to migrate toward a place of greater openness, acceptance, and effectiveness. Statistics cited in a recent New York Times report indicate that 80 percent of calls can be resolved without further intervention by a mobile crisis team or a mental health care facility. It is also important to note how re-directing mental health crisis calls to a specialized, easy-to-remember mental health line can help to improve outcomes for all who seek help through 988 and 911 alike.
While we have surely come a long way from the days when hushed conversations about mental health and addiction were inhibited by overwhelming shame and stigma, there is still a tremendous amount of work ahead of us and challenges to overcome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death of Americans in all ages in 2020; amongst youth ages 10 to 14 and individuals ages 25 to 34, it was the second leading cause of death.
Those are shocking statistics that must make all of us pause, re-evaluate, and recommit to the work of saving lives in Nassau County and across our nation. In the months and years ahead, Nassau County has a duty to support 988 and the innovations that will follow in its wake with the resources that are necessary to achieve their full life-saving potential.
Kevan M. Abrahams, of Freeport, represents the First Legislative District and is the leader of the Nassau County Legislature’s Minority Caucus.