May 14, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the coronavirus crisis continues to inflict negative impacts on Americans’ mental health, yesterday the Senate unanimously passed legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) that would designate 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line are each 10-digits, creating an additional barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support.
“The coronavirus crisis is straining the mental health of Americans from across the country, from all walks of life, and is shining a spotlight on the importance of expanding access to mental health services,” said Senator King. “In a mental health crisis, every second counts, and any step we can take to make it easier for Americans to access professional help is a step worth taking. Plain and simple, the designation of 988 as the suicide hotline will save lives – so let’s pass this bill, and save lives.”
As financial uncertainty and increased isolation causes negative health impacts on Americans, Senator King has emphasized the importance of supporting mental health. Last month, Senator King joined a bipartisan group of 13 other Senators in a push to provide the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) with $80 million to support critical suicide prevention activities. Senator King also led a group of 20 Senators in a letter urging increased investments in mental and behavior health in any future coronavirus legislation, following reports showing Americans are experiencing negative mental health effects due to the pandemic.
Maine lost 274 people to suicides in 2019, and data from the 2019 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey indicates that 16.4% of Maine high school students seriously contemplated suicide in the past year. – a total of approximately 8,900 students.