July 23, 2022

Crisis Supports Streamlined: 988

Beginning on July 16, 2022, getting access to support in a mental health or suicide crisis has been streamlined.  Now, 988 is the three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the services of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, renamed the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

The three digit number allows calls, texts, or chats with trained counselors at more than 200 call centers across the nation. Usually, after a brief connection time (usually less than 45 seconds) live counselors listen, provide support and tools, and if needed, connect callers to local resources. The long term goal of an expanded system is to have crisis response teams, rather than law enforcement, able to respond if needed.

Since its inception in 2005, the Lifeline has received more than 23 million calls. Studies show that callers report they feel less suicidal, depressed, or overwhelmed, and more hopeful, after connecting with a Lifeline counselor. These services are available to anyone in the US free of charge.

The move to 988 is the first step in nationwide efforts to enhance support for mental health and crisis situations. In various ways, state and local governments are working to improve resources, and there is support on a federal level, but there is still work to be done to build a nationwide system to meet demand and provide mental health directed response. Call centers are already looking to increase their volunteers and employees. In its first week, 988 received over 96,000 contacts, up 45% from the week prior.

If you need more resources, the nonprofit Vibrant Emotional Health, which runs the Lifeline, offers these additional strategies to aid in coping, calming, or connecting in a crisis. You can also learn the tools of the 5 Steps to #BeThe1To support someone you know in crisis (Ask, Be There, Keep Them Safe, Help Them Connect, Follow Up.) The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also offers tools to support a friend or loved one. For more on the Lifeline, how to access or support crisis services, and additional resources visit 988lifeline.org. 

Life is complicated and trauma and crises happen to all of us. Sometimes we get overwhelmed and it is hard to see another path or outcome. Having tools to foster connection, calm the nervous system, or open up another point of view can be invaluable in saving a life. Streamlining access to those call centers and a listening ear is an important step – and we need to continue to increase access and a range of tools for preventing suicide and suffering.