988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Offers Hope, Connection and Support to Help Save Lives
Author: Carla Stumpf Patton
We all can do our part at preventing suicide, starting with the resources to seek support and help from the new, “988” Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and Veteran’s Crisis Line (Veterans press1). The Transition to 988 on July 16, 2022 is an important step forward and offers an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen and transform crisis care in our country. The national launch of the 3-digit dialing code will provide free and confidential support, 24/7/365 through call, text, or chat. This will offer a direct connection to compassionate, accessible care for anyone experiencing mental health related distress, thoughts of suicide, substance use crisis, or any other form of emotional distress, as well as provide prevention and crisis resources, and best practices for professionals in the United States.
Meeting the Need
There are urgent realities driving the need for increased crisis response services across our country, such as some statistics that show:
- In 2020 alone, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes.
- For people aged 10 – 34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death.
- From April 2020 to 2021, over 100,000 individuals died from drug overdoses.
On a positive and hopeful note, evidence shows that by providing support services, having clear and direct communication about suicide, knowing risk factors and warning signs, reducing access to means of self-harm, and following up with those in emotional distress are a few of the steps we can take to help those around us. Providing this level of support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress works; the Lifeline helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day. Hope exists, help is available, and it can save lives. Read more to learn how we can achieve this together.
Key Points to Consider
- The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veteran’s Crisis Line) is a network of more than 200 state and local call centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and administered by Vibrant Emotional Health.
- 988 offers 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use and other mental health crises.
- 988 serves as a universal entry point so that no matter where you live in the United States, you can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help.
- Over time, the vision for 988 is to have additional crisis services available in communities across the country, much the way emergency medical services work.
- Studies have shown that after speaking with a trained crisis counselor, most people served by the Lifeline are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed and more hopeful.
- Access is available through every landline, cell phone, and voice-over internet device in the United States and call services are available in Spanish, along with interpretation services in over 150 languages.
- The previous 1-800-273-8255 (Veterans press 1) number will continue to function even after the transition.
- The Lifeline currently provides live crisis center calling services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages. Text and chat are currently available in English only.
What to expect when you call/text/chat the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
When you call 988, you will first hear a greeting message with the chance to press 1 for the Veteran's Crisis Lifeline, 2 for Spanish, or stay on the line while your call is routed to your local Lifeline network crisis center. Then a trained crisis counselor will answer the phone, provide support, and share resources if needed.
When you text 988 you will complete a short survey letting the crisis counselor know a little about your situation. You will be connected with a trained crisis counselor in one of our crisis centers who will answer the text, provide support, and share resources if needed.
Visit 988lifeline.org and find the chat button in the top right-hand corner of the screen. You will complete a short survey letting the crisis counselor know a little bit about your current situation. Then you’ll see a wait-time message while you are connected with a trained crisis counselor who will answer the chat, provide support, and share resources if needed. If you are hard of hearing, you can chat with a Lifeline counselor 24/7. For TTY users, use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the Lifeline and will 988 replace it?
The Lifeline is a national network of over 200 local, independent, and state-funded crisis centers equipped to help people in emotional distress or experiencing a suicidal crisis. This will not replace the Lifeline, rather it will be an easier way to access a strengthened and expanded network of crisis call centers and the 10-digit number will not go away.
When will 988 go live nationally?
The 988 dialing code will be available nationwide for call (multiple languages), text or chat (English only) on July 16, 2022.
How is 988 different from 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 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police as needed).
If I call 988, will first responders (like EMS or Police) be dispatched?
The primary goal of the Lifeline is to provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress when they need it most and in ways which are person-centered. The vast majority of those seeking help from the Lifeline do not require additional interventions at that moment. 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.
How will Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families reach the Veteran’s Crisis Line once the transition takes place?
Veterans, Service Members, and their families will be able to call 988 and press option 1 the same as they are able to do by calling 1-800-273-8255. To learn more, please visit the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website.
Who can contact 988?
Anyone who feels depressed, going through a challenging time, needs to talk, is thinking about suicide, or for those who may have concerns about someone else - can call, text, or chat 988. Trained counselors are available to listen and support you through whatever difficult times you may be facing.
Postvention Grief Support: If you are a survivor coping with a military-related suicide loss and in need of postvention grief support, programs, or services, TAPS is here to help. Call the National Military Survivor Helpline at 800-959-TAPS (8277) or visit taps.org/suicide.
Want to learn more?
To learn more about the some of the leading resources, details, partners, funding agencies, and potential employment opportunities, please visit:
- Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Veteran’s Crisis Line
- National Action Alliance Messaging Framework
- 988 Social Media Shareables
Dr. Carla Stumpf Patton, TAPS Senior Director, Suicide Prevention & Postvention Programs