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National suicide hotline number changes to 988 on Saturday

The new three-digit dialing code streamlines access to mental health crisis support and is part of a nationwide effort to transition the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to a phone number people can more easily remember and access in times of crisis.

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A shorter, three-digit suicide crisis number will go into effect nationwide on Saturday, July 16, 2022.
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FARGO — Beginning on Saturday, July 16, Minnesota, along with other states, is rolling out the new 988 phone number for people to call when they need a mental health crisis lifeline.

The new three-digit dialing code streamlines access to mental health crisis support and is part of a nationwide effort to transition the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to a phone number people can more easily remember and access in times of crisis.

The change also includes an online chat feature and new texting option.

The new 988 dialing code will serve as a universal entry point, so people can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help regardless of where they live.

Starting Saturday, anyone can dial or text 988 to reach crisis support or to use an online chat feature to connect with crisis support. The crisis line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week

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People may also phone 988 if they are worried about a loved one needing crisis support.

"Supporting mental health is a critical public health need, and one of the best ways we can do that is to make it as easy as possible for people to get the help they need when they need it," said Jan Malcom, Minnesota commissioner of health.

"Our hope is that 988 can be an easier way for people experiencing mental health crises to get support quickly," she added.

Until the new number takes effect Saturday, the old 10-digit number will be used and it will remain in place even after the 988 number goes into effect Saturday, with calls being routed to where they need to go.

The 10-digit number being replaced is 1-800-273-8255.

People should call 911 if they suspect a drug overdose or need immediate medical help.

Suicide is a serious and growing public health concern across the United States.

The number of suicide deaths and the suicide rate in Minnesota has increased consistently for 20 years, according to Minnesota Department of Health data.

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In Minnesota, from 2016 through 2020 there were more than 10,000 hospital visits for suicide attempts and those were mostly among people ages 10-24, predominantly females.

Each year about 75-80% of suicide deaths in Minnesota are among males.

Annually, about 50% of suicide deaths are the result of a gun injury and suicide typically represents 70-80% of all gun deaths, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

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