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There’s a new way to connect with help when you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis.

A new national three-digit number launched earlier this month — 988 — and it is staffed with people trained to assist people going through a mental health or suicide-related crisis.

The help is available 24/7, 365 days of the year. Call any time.

It is completely free.

Everything you share with the 988 responder is 100 percent confidential.

The line is available to those experiencing mental distress and to family members, friends, and neighbors who would like to help.

The responder will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and get you the help you need.

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The concept is based on the success of the emergency number 911, which has worked well to speed access to emergency care. But dispatchers at 911 are not equipped to provide the type of care needed for mental health crises. This new number takes the best of what 911 offers and pairs it with trained mental health responders.

While the number is new, the service is not.

The people on the line have lots of experience. They have been helping people on the Suicide Prevention Lifeline since 2005.

The care you receive is tailored to you. Most often, the people on the line are from your region. They understand your local area and the unique stresses that come with it.

The help is specialized. No matter who you are — a veteran, a new mom, a young person, a loss survivor, a disaster survivor, or from a historically marginalized group — responders provide specialized resources and support.

Lots of people call, including more than 3,000 Vermonters in 2020, almost 2.5 million in the United States that same year, and more than 20 million since 2005. It is brave and good to get the help you need.

Additional resources, including stories of hope and recovery from people who have suffered from many of the common causes of mental distress, are available at 988lifeline.org.

Heidi French is the director of Community Relations and Development at United Counseling Service in Bennington.


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