988 Launches Nationwide: Here’s What You Need to Know

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On July 16, 2022, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline launched across the country. Going forward, anyone in need of mental health support can access compassionate, accessible care for themselves or a loved one by calling ‘988,’ (multiple languages), texting 988 (English only) or by accessing the chat feature on the 988 website.

What is the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline?

In 2005, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) to provide help to people experiencing suicidal thoughts in the United States. In 2020, work began on simplifying the number to 988 (a companion number to 911).

The implementation of 988 is meant to streamline access to life-saving mental health and substance use crisis support.

 “988 is more than a number, it is a message: we’re there for you. Through this and other actions, we are treating mental health as a priority and putting crisis care in reach for more Americans,” said Department of Health &Human Services Secretary Becerra.

Since the original National Suicide Prevention Lifeline began in 2005, it has served as an invaluable resource, helping thousands of people overcome suicidal crisis and mental health-related distress every day. With the transition to 988, these life-saving services will be even more accessible.

Who is the Lifeline for?

Anyone can call, text or chat 988 if they are having thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crises 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.

Between the national line and local support networks like Colorado Crisis Services, Colorado residents will have multiple avenues of access in times of crisis or mental health distress.

What happens when you contact the Lifeline?

People calling, texting or chatting the lifeline will hear an automated message explaining routing options, reassurance that they’re in the right place and a request to briefly hold while they’re connected to the nearest crisis center in the 988 network. At that point, a trained crisis counselor will answer the call. Counselors will listen to the person’s concerns, provide immediate support and offer connections to additional resources.

For  more information, check out the Lifeline’s infographic here.

What does the 988 Lifeline look like moving forward?

This is an exciting time to reimagine how crisis services can be made more accessible in the U.S.. It will also take more time for the full vision of a transformed crisis care system with 988 at its core to be built. Transformation of this scale will take time, and we must all work together to make it happen.