The Power of a Three-Digit Number: Dial 988 for Suicide Prevention
What is the 988 Hotline?
You might have observed a fee on your phone bill associated with the number 988. This easy-to-remember number was added in July of 2022 by the FCC and serves as the dedicated hotline for suicide prevention and mental health emergencies. By calling or texting 988 or chatting 988lifeline.org, individuals can connect with trained professionals who can provide immediate assistance and support. As we observe Mental Health Month, let’s explore 988 and the impact it can have on saving lives.
Accessible Help in Critical Moments
No matter where you live in the United States, you can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress using 988. The Lifeline responds 24/7 to calls (multiple languages), chats, or texts (English only) from anyone who needs mental health-related or suicide crisis support. That could be:
- Thoughts of suicide
- Mental health or substance use crisis, or
- Any other kind of emotional distress
What happens when you call 988?
The primary goal of the Lifeline is to provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the moments they most need it and in a manner that is person-centered. Currently, fewer than 2% of Lifeline calls require connection to emergency services like 911. While some safety and health issues may warrant a response from law enforcement and/or Emergency Medical Services (namely when a suicide attempt is in progress), the 988 coordinated response is intended to promote stabilization and care in the least restrictive manner.
If you or a loved one need to use this valuable resource, you will hear:-
- An automated message.
- Press 1 for Veterans Crisis Line
- Press 2 for Spanish
- A brief hold while the call connects to a local crisis center.
- The crisis counselor will –
- Share resources if needed
Lifeline calls are free, confidential and available 24/7. To learn about what happens when you text or chat with the Lifeline, click here.
Spreading the word about 988.
988 is powerful step toward readily accessible help. But only if you are aware of its existence. According to a recent survey, Pew Charitable Trusts suggests that only 13% of adults in the United States are aware of the national 988 hotline.
Don’t wait until you know someone is in need to have a plan. Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing support (like 988) can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Spread the word about 988 and encourage others to do the same. Connecting our community to this resource can make the difference when it matters most.
If someone you know is talking about or making plans to hurt themselves, take it seriously. Let them know there is hope and encourage them to call or text 988 for help. Learn other ways to help www.samhsa.gov/suicide.