To make 988 truly transformative, here’s what needs to happen now

By Preston Mitchum and Whitney Bunts

The new three-digit national suicide prevention and mental health crisis lifeline, 988, is set to launch on July 16. This is a watershed moment to reimagine our country’s crisis care system and how we implement safe, accessible, equitable, and police-free mental health services.

But with just under three months to the launch date, there is much more to be done concerning racial justice, youth inclusion, and public awareness — a new poll by The Trevor Project and Morning Consult finds that nearly 7 in 10 people (69 percent) had not seen, read, or heard much of anything at all about the launch of 988 in July.

When the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was signed into law by President Trump in October 2020, formally codifying 988, it was the first bill to pass unanimously through Congress that included the words “LGBTQ.” The law provides funding, currently estimated at $7.2 million for specialized services for LGBTQ young people, a group consistently found to be at higher risk for suicide compared to their peers.

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