Call 988: New suicide hotline number launches Saturday

People can call 988 starting July 16th

HOUSTON – The National Suicide Prevention Line’s new number 9-8-8 has launched in Harris County and nationwide on Saturday.

Inside the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, part of Paul Daigle’s job is answering the call.

“I think it’s needed,” he said.

Daigle is a peer specialist at the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD.

“I can actually help someone who is following the steps that I took,” Daigle said.

Six years ago, he was fighting for his life.

“I broke my neck, my jaw, (and) had some brain bleeds,” he recalled.

He suffered those injuries in a car crash. It left him in a coma for 20 days, and when he woke up, he learned his life had changed.

“Getting told my best friend was killed in the same motor vehicle accident I was in was extremely heavy. That sent my life on a downward trajectory,” he said.

Daigle said he began abusing drugs and alcohol.

“I was broken and didn’t believe I had any fight left in me and I was just... I was done. I had given up on myself,” he said.

Daigle said he had also given up on life.

“I ate a whole bottle of prescription medication and I ended up going to the hospital,” he said

With support from family and a program at the Harris Center, he found hope and sobriety.

“Telling myself I do have value,” he said.

Sarah Strang is the program director of the mobile crisis outreach team at the Harris Center.

“We are going out every day, 24/7, 365,” she said.

In October 2020, the national suicide hotline designation act was signed into law. This means the once 11-digit national suicide prevention line will now be three digits -- 9-8-8.

“We wouldn’t help someone who is having a heart attack, we would make sure to call to get them help, same with mental health. We want to address it,” Strang said.

The Harris Center is one of five Texas crisis centers that will be answering calls to the 9-8-8 number.

“I think it’s needed,” Daigle said.

The goal is to increase accessibility to resources preventing suicide.

When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors with the existing lifeline network.

The counselors are instructed to listen, understand, provide support and connect them to crisis prevention specialists.

“I’m going to make mistakes,” Daigle said. “But as long as I always try to be better than I was, I’m going in the right direction.”

About the Author: