Suicide Prevention hotline number change to increase access, services

For years, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been a way for people with suicidal thoughts to get help. But a big change could soon make it easier for Minnesotans in crisis to connect with the hotline.

"What happens isn't going to change. If you call, someone will be able to talk to you. If you call from Minnesota, they'll refer you to Minnesota resources, but what changes is the number," said Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI MN, told FOX 9.

Instead of dialing a 10-digit number to reach a trained counselor, starting Saturday, the number will be simplified to just three digits, 988.

Mental health experts say the reason for the change is to make the number easier for people to remember, especially when they are going through a tough time.

"Remembering a number has been difficult, so across the country, people will be able to dial 988 and be connected to suicide prevention hotline," said Abderholden.

Last year, 34,000 Minnesotans called the suicide prevention hotline and mental health advocates believe changing the number to 988 could result in a 25%-30% increase in calls.

But some fear more calls could get rolled to crisis centers in other parts of the country because Minnesota is one of several states where the Legislature did not pass additional funding to increase capacity at crisis call centers in the state.

"People might be pushed on to another call center. There might be a delay in answering that call," she said.

The current lifeline number will stay operational after 988 goes live this weekend, but mental health experts hope making the number more memorable will save more lives.

"We know if you are feeling suicidal, if you can connect with another human being and that person can help you feel that there is help in the future. There are some steps you can take," she said. "Connect you to some resources, We can save a life. We can save a life."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). After July 16, dial 988.