988 is the new number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Beginning Saturday, July 16, 2022, 988 will be the new three-digit dialing code connecting people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where compassionate, accessible care and support is available for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress—whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
The Lifeline is a national network of about 200 local, independent crisis centers equipped to help people in mental health-related distress or experiencing a suicidal crisis. Until July 16 and even after 988 goes live, they can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
It’s important to note that 988 will connect people to more than just a “suicide” line, it will be a service for anyone who is suicidal or experiencing mental health- and/or substance use-related crisis. It’s important not to call them just a “suicide” lifeline but instead, refer to them as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
When calling 988, callers first hear a greeting message while their call is routed to the local Lifeline network crisis center (based on the caller’s area code). A trained crisis counselor will answer the phone, listen to the caller, understand how their problem is affecting them, provide support, and share resources if needed. If the local crisis center is unable to take the call, the caller will be automatically routed to a national backup crisis center. The Lifeline provides live crisis center phone services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages for people who call 988.
Chat (English only) is available through Lifeline’s website. People seeking chat services will be provided a pre-chat survey before connecting with a counselor that identifies the main area of concern. If there is a wait to chat with a crisis counselor, a wait-time message will appear. If demand is high, individuals can access Lifeline’s “helpful resources” while waiting or call 1-800-273-8255 (or 988 after July 16, 2022). Once connected, a crisis counselor will listen to you, work to understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share resources that may be helpful.
Texting (English only) will also be available through 988. When someone texts 988, they will be responded to by a group of Lifeline crisis centers that respond to chat and text. This service will expand over the next few years to increase local and state-level response. Once connected, a crisis counselor will listen to you, work to understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share resources that may be helpful.
How is 988 different than 911?
988 was established to improve access to crisis services in a way that meets our country’s growing suicide and mental health-related crisis care needs. 988 will provide easier access to the Lifeline network and related crisis resources, which are distinct from the public safety purposes of 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire, and police as needed).
For more information visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.
Posted July 15, 2022