Mental Health Lifeline Coming to Vermont

Woman using her phone

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. As of July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available across the country by dialing just three digits: 988.

Trigger Warning: This blog discusses mental health and suicide. 

Suicide is a preventable public health problem, yet it is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States and the eighth leading cause of death in Vermont. We are passionate about fostering important conversations and providing resources to contribute to prevention efforts.

As of July 16, 2022 the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available in Vermont and across the country by dialing just three-digits: 988. 

“Most people do not know the ten-digit suicide prevention phone number, or the number for their local mental health crisis intervention service,” says Senior Medical Director Tom Weigel, MD. “Moving to 988 as the national mental health crisis hotline will ensure people are getting the help they need when they are suicidal or in emotional distress.”

According to the Vermont Department of Health, hospital visits for self-harm are highest for females and 15 to 24-year-olds. Blue Cross member Munro McLaren, 22, was alarmed to hear this statistic but shared that she does have hope for the future of mental health. “I hope the fact that more people are talking about mental health, including celebrities and athletes, will help. All of them are now taking the lead,” she says. As an aspiring filmmaker, Munro is also taking the lead to destigmatize mental health.

Motivated by her own struggles with depression, Munro created the documentary film “Locked Inside: How COVID-19 Impacted Mental Health” which explores the vulnerability of two college students on a mental health journey.

Like Dr. Weigel, Munro believes the three-digit Suicide Lifeline phone number will be especially useful for those in crisis. “I think it's important because I cannot remember the actual suicide lifeline… it's just too long. With three digits (988), like 911, you immediately know it.” 

Additional Resources

  • Crisis Text Line (available 24/7): Text “VT” to 741741
  • Find Mental Health Services in your area: Call 211
  • Vermont Peer Support Line (available 24/7): Call or Text 833-888-2557

Consider saving these numbers in your phone now. 

Warning Signs of Suicide

While we don’t always know what someone is thinking and feeling, there are some warning signs you can watch for.

  • Talking or writing about wanting to die, hurt themselves or someone else.
  • Saying they feel hopeless, trapped, without purpose, in pain, or like they are a burden to others.
  • Looking for ways to harm themselves. For example, they may buy a gun or stockpile medicines. 
  • Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, and activities.
  • Doing risky things, like driving too fast.
  • Giving away their belongings.

Risk Factors of Suicide

It is nearly impossible to predict a suicide attempt, but there are risk factors that are important to be aware of:

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, and substance use disorders
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Family history of suicide or exposure to others who have died by suicide 
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Stigma associated with asking for help

The following Vermont populations are more at risk for self-harm and suicide:

  • LGBT 
  • Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)
    • BIPOC Vermonters represent 5 percent of suicide deaths
  • Adults with a disability
  • Adults who served in the U.S. armed forces
    • Veterans represent 20 percent of suicide deaths
  • Adults who are isolated

How to Help Someone at Risk of Suicide

If you know someone with a plan to harm themselves, or someone else, follow these steps:

  1. Call 911 - the police, or 988 - the suicide hotline.
  2. Consider your own safety. If you feel safe, stay with the person, or ask someone you trust to stay with them, until help arrives.
  3. Talk about the situation as openly as possible and show understanding and compassion. Tell the person that you do not want them to die or to harm another person.

Make a Suicide Safety Plan

If you have ever felt suicidal or thought about suicide, you should have a safety plan ready to help yourself and the people you care about.

How to make a safety plan: 

  1. Make a list of your crisis warning signs.
    What happens when you start to think about suicide? Make a list of your warning signs—the things you think, feel, or do when you start to feel suicidal.
  2. List your personal coping strategies.
    What can you do or think about to avoid acting when you feel suicidal? This may include your reason(s) to live.
  3. Come up with some sources of support and distraction.
    Think of people and places that could help shift your attention away from painful feelings or thoughts of dying. This may include a safe social space, like a coffee shop or a bookstore.
  4. Make a list of people you can count on for help.
    Think about who you could contact in a crisis. Who do you trust? This might be a friend, a family member, or someone else, like a caregiver or pastor. If no one comes to mind, that is okay. Be sure you have some professional support, such as a doctor or counselor.
  5. List your professional sources of support.
    This may include your doctor or therapist, local emergency rooms, and local crisis hotlines. 
  6. Think through ways to keep yourself safe.
    Do you have weapons or other means to hurt yourself? Consider how to limit your access to them.