Upcoming 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline Plans Pilot Program Specifically for LGBTQ Community

The hope is that such a program could become a permanent subnet, similar to the one that already exists for veterans, and add a more specialized hotline for a community considered to be at higher risk of suicide and self-harm. The lifeline, which can currently be reached by dialing 1-800-273-8255, is moving to a shorter 988 number on July 16.
Vibrant, the nonprofit that administers the lifeline on behalf of the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency under the Department of Health and Human Services, plans to announce more details about the pilot program ahead of the 988’s rollout later this month. . Among the questions that need to be answered is how the program will be funded and staffed, as the 988 network itself will likely not be at full capacity when it becomes available nationwide.

“Establishing such a critically important service requires care and consideration,” John Draper, executive director of Lifeline, said in a statement provided to CNN. “Our main concern is to ensure that we develop a pilot project that will remove barriers and provide assertive support for LGBTQIA+ populations.”

Some 45% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, according to the Trevor Project’s annual survey, released in May. But parents can make a difference: LGBTQ youth who felt high social support from family said they had attempted suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support.

“Given that we know that certain populations are at increased risk for suicide due to systemic issues such as homophobia, transphobia, racism, and historical trauma, to name a few, it is imperative that equity be at the forefront of efforts to build 988 nationwide infrastructure,” said Colleen Carr, director of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention at the Education Development Center , the nation’s public-private partnership for suicide prevention, in a statement to CNN.

“By keeping this focus, community crisis response services will reflect and meet the needs of all communities across our country,” she added.

Talks are underway to reach the Native American population

Vibrant hopes to use this pilot program as a model for others and will likely launch a pilot program this fall for a subnet for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, Draper previously told CNN. Vibrant also held discussions with national tribal public health officials about how best to serve Native American and Alaska Native populations. While there are currently no planned subnets for these communities at this time, the organization hopes to learn strategies from its separate subnet pilot programs to help reach and better serve marginalized populations.

“When you have a population like American Indian/Alaska Native that has been historically excluded, underserved, or underserved, it’s so important to get it right,” said Shelby Rowe, director of Suicide Prevention Resource Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center. , which has had discussions with Vibrant about launching 988.

Steps are underway to increase awareness around 988 and strengthen local call centers, with a focus on ensuring that individual call centers know how best to work with their local nations and tribal communities. and serve them – and all who live in their communities, Rowe said. For example, she said Washington State included tribal nations in its preparations for the 988 nationwide rollout.

Rowe added that some tribes may have counselors or therapists available to help support local 988 call centers, particularly this summer as the new number rolls out nationwide.

Determining best practices, strategies and resources for reaching diverse communities remains important, as many people likely to call lifeline 988 might identify with more than one group – for example, when they might like Native American, they can also be a veteran or a member of the LGBTQ community, said Jacque Gray, program director of the National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative.

“There are a lot of intersections of these identities, and I think it’s about enabling the option that they would like to connect with,” Gray told CNN.

And research psychologist Joseph P. Gone, a Harvard professor and member of the Aaniiih-Gros Ventre Tribal Nation of Montana, wrote in an email to CNN that adding specialized subnets as part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is “another promising weapon in the arsenal”. to address suicide in the United States, including among Indigenous peoples.

Due to the long history of racism and discrimination against Indigenous peoples in the United States, they tend to show an “understandable distrust” of many mainstream health care institutions, Gone believes.

“Thus, specially trained counselors who know the particular needs and referrals of Native Americans and Alaska Natives in distress can help ensure that effective counseling and referrals are offered in response to urgent requests for help,” said Gone writes in his email.

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