988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline expands opportunities to help

  • Published
  • By Dr. Konrad Hayashi, MD, MPH & TM

Dr. Konrad Hayashi
Fort Stewart Installation Public Health

There are lots of means to prevent, and successfully intervene, in a mental health crisis.

The nationwide kickoff of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, operated 24/7, provides  a new tool that expands the opportunities for professional counseling.

Anyone experiencing mental health distress or worried about a loved one; who may need crisis support, can call or text 988, or chat with a trained crisis counselor at 988lifeline.org.  


I recall a moment  when suicide struck close to my heart. A friend and former shipmate, from when we served in the Navy had fallen on hard times.  We were close at one point, he’d even stayed six months in my California house while his was being built.  But being stationed thousands of miles away, we lost touch.  It wasn’t until our ship’s reunion that I learned he’d taken his life.  It shook me.  I wish I could have reached out to him in his time of need.  I learned, much to my surprise, that he had trouble with his marriage and his career.   

Suicide is rarely caused by a single event or circumstance; it is typically multifactorial.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention notes many common factors associated with suicide including stress, relationship issues; social isolation, including if they are in a group that may be marginalized (e.g., LGBT), financial difficulties, a prior attempt, legal problems, abuse / domestic violence (previous or ongoing), to name a few.  They note other high risk behaviors contribute, significantly - drug and alcohol use, criminal convictions, mental disorders such as schizophrenia, and major depression.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/suicide-data-statistics.html, there were 45,979 documented suicides in 2020, and over 1.2 million attempts. The national rate of suicides rose by about a third from 2000-2018.

It is important to keep an eye out for your friends, family and team mates.

Look for warning signs. Does the person talk about being a burden, of feeling trapped,  in unbearable pain, or feeling hopeless? Are they increasingly isolated? Are they anxious, moody, and displaying more  anger? 

Has their sleep markedly dropped off, or increased? Have they talked of making plans for suicide, or started giving away items they value? Do they have access to a weapon? Is there an increase their use/abuse of alcohol or other substances?
Multiple factors can help maintain stability and protect against suicide.

The CDC notes a strong sense of cultural identity helps; as does the support from a healthy relationship, family, and friends.  Stable employment and social connections in communities add layers of support,  as does access to physical and behavioral health care. All of us can make a positive difference by reaching out to others in need, in almost any tough situation. 

Other resources are also available to help.

Besides reaching out to 988 if you are facing a crisis, our Chaplain Corps, Behavioral Health Counselors, and some in our Medical Corps, are all available.   

Anyone who is worried about a friend, family member, or colleague should know that asking someone if they are facing difficulties; or have thoughts of harming themselves or other, may be providing them with a vital lifeline. Don’t be afraid to ask – it may enable them to open up and get help.  You can be the key lifeline when they need it most.

Each of us can make a difference in saving a life.  It might even be our own.