Mental health

Calling 988 Can Get You Help During a Mental Health or Substance Abuse Emergency

In Massachusetts, there are also places you can go for help during a mental health or substance abuse emergency, regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

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The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which can now be reached nationwide by dialing 988, is a resource for anyone experiencing a mental health or substance abuse emergency. It has been revamped in recent years…so what should you expect when you call?

Debbie Helm runs Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, which answers some of these calls.



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 “People should expect to hear a warm compassionate voice. We try to set them at ease,” she explained.

If you live in Massachusetts, you have another option that’s new this year: the Behavioral Health Helpline – 833-773-2445.

It works similarly to 988, but clinicians there can direct you to one of the newly formed Community Behavioral Health Centers.

They are places someone in need can go to get treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues. They also offer a 24/7 mobile crisis team. The services are offered regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

Psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Simon is Boston’s first-ever chief behavioral health officer and says anyone can call.


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“The behavioral health line can actually call to CBHC to alert the CBHC that someone might be en route. So there's a little bit better connection and coordination that is happening and that is planned with the behavioral health line and the CBHCs.”

Data from the CDC reports within the last year that 1 in 5 teenagers in the United States had at some point experienced an episode of major depression: unshakeable and worrisome feelings of sadness and hopelessness lasting for at least two weeks.

In either number, the clinician on the other end will assess what you’re saying… but you’re not expected to say more than you want.

“They don't have to share any personal information if they don't want to,” Helm said.

Simon says just calling is an important step.

"So there are small ways to acknowledge even the fact that you dialed 988. That is an indication that you are trying to be heard, be seen. And so those are the small ways in which a small conversation actually can do quite a bit because you're affirming and validating them,” he said.

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