New Mexico sees lower youth suicide rate, looks to new 988 crisis hotline

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As September marks Suicide Prevention Month, New Mexico is seeing some improvements as a new crisis hotline continues to gain traction.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Hotline was rolled out in July. The hotline was shortened from ten digits to just 988, with the hope that more people would remember the number and call when needed.

“Everybody experiences mental health concerns in their life. That doesn’t mean that you have a mental health diagnosis but it’s ok to ask for help and if you don’t ask for help you can put yourself and others at risk,” said Wendy Linebrink-Allison, the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line’s program manager. “Allowing a three-digit phone number where people can reach out, specifically for mental health concerns, allows for people to connect with the right people at the right time.”

The state saw a 16% drop in suicide among New Mexicans ages 5 to 18 – a positive mark on the state after it had one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S. in 2020.

State leaders attribute the 16% drop to prevention and the hotline’s efforts. This year, the volume of calls has increased and the rate of response in our state has also increased by over 90%.

While most 988 calls are suicide-related, people can also call the number for help with any mental health crisis.

“Unfortunately, we also lead the country in alcohol-related deaths and we’re among the leaders in overdose deaths,” said Dr. Neal Bowen, the director of New Mexico Human Services Department’s Behavioral Health Services division. “That’s one of the reasons we expanded it from just suicide to all forms of a behavioral health crisis – that way people have a pathway a three-digit pathway to get help.”

As the number continues to gain traction for behavioral health crises, including suicidal thoughts, there is still work to do. The New Mexico Department of Health found a slight increase in suicide among adults, but is in the process of increasing access to mental health services.