May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that in 2020 one in five U.S. adults experienced a mental illness, one in fifteen experienced both a substance use disorder and mental illness, and one in twenty experienced a serious mental illness. The COVID pandemic has increased mental health issues across the U.S. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “[r]oughly one-third (32%) of adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder in February 2022” and “27% reported having unmet mental health care needs.”
The statistics shared by NAMI on suicide are sobering:
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 10-34 and the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- The overall suicide rate has increased 35% since 1999
- 78% of all people who die by suicide are male
To help address this very serious issue, Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020. The Act designated 9-8-8 as the universal telephone number for the purpose of the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system operating through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) and the Veterans Crisis Line. The shorter number is intended to be easy to remember and provide greater accessibility to mental health services.
On July 16, 2022, the 9-8-8 number will begin routing calls, texts and chats from all 50 states to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The current Lifeline phone number (800-273-8255) will still remain active. When people call, text or chat 9-8-8, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing Lifeline network. Veterans can dial 1 after dialing 9-8-8 to be connected to the Veterans Crisis Line. Lifeline has a network of over 200 crisis centers in the U.S. and has been in operation since 2005. The Veterans Crisis Line provides confidential crisis support for Veterans and their loved ones.
 How Does Use of Mental Health Care Vary by Demographics and Health Insurance Coverage?, N. Panchal, M. Rae, H. Saunders, C. Cox and R. Rudowitz, March 24, 2022.