suicide prevention

Dial 9-8-8 to Reach National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Starting Mid-July

Though not active until mid-July, people will soon be able to call or text a shorter, three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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Not intended to replace the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), "9-8-8" is an additional resource for people when in emotional or suicidal crisis.

"I never really knew anything about suicide, it just wasn't in my vocabulary," said Ann Irr Dagle, member of Connecticut's 988 Coalition.

Dagle found this work in 2014, three years after losing her son, Brian, to suicide.

"Our world stopped. It was like a tsunami that went off and exploded throughout not only our life. You know, I realized, it was so many other lives that mattered with it," said Dagle.

After doing her own research into the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide, Dagle created the Brian Dagle Foundation and has worked with the state to launch a quick, three-digit number that connects callers to mental health professionals.

"I hope to give recognition to the importance of mental health," said Dagle. "I also think it's an important number to help break down the stigma surrounding mental health. It will have its own number. So, when you call 9-1-1, there's not a mental health professional to help you. You'll get the police department."

9-8-8 is the shortened number people can call to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. This number becomes active in the state July 16.

Dagle said while suicide rates have decreased nationwide, the number of people experiencing feelings of isolation, depression and suicide ideation has increased - and more are asking for help.

"The pandemic has had a huge impact on all of us and, in addition to that, there's plenty to be stressed out about in the world right now. And as we feel stressed, we need to be able to talk about it," said Martin Smith, clinical director for outpatient psychiatric services at Bridge Family Serivces.

Smith has spent more than two decades working with people who struggle with mental health challenges. Since the pandemic, he's seen an increase in the number of children under 10 having suicidal thoughts.

But he says this three-digit number, shortened from the current 10-digit number, is an extremely helpful tool.

Patrick J. Dunn, the executive director for New Haven's Pride Center, said that's especially true for LGBTQ+ youth.

"LGBTQ youth make up a disproportionate percentage of youth that are either going to attempt suicide or think about attempting suicide," said Dunn.

A survivor of suicide, Dunn said this population is often made to feel isolated. 

"Whether its national hate rhetoric; there's 182 bills across the United States right now targeting LGBTQ youth, particularly trans youth," said Dunn. "Whether its bullying coming from school administrators, peers in the classroom, their parents, their families and also just the general feeling of disconnect from community, which I think all of can relate to over the past two years of the pandemic."

A poll conducted in February by the Trevor Project shows that nearly 70% of people didn't know about 9-8-8, despite an increased cry for help across the nation.

"When I lost my son, I did not know the warning signs that are out there. I did not know that it was the second leading cause of death in young men. I did not know that an upwards of 47,000 people a year die by suicide, so it just shocked me," said Dagle. "It was important that I education myself and educate others on it as well."

According to the state's Suicide Prevention Plan, Connecticut is working to reduce the rate of suicide deaths by 20% by the year 2025.

The shortcut number, 9-8-8, launches July 16. People can and will continue to have access to the current lifeline (1-800-273-8255). 2-1-1 is another resource for crisis services in Connecticut.

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