New 988 mental health hotline launches Saturday across US -- What we know

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline features a network of more than 200 state and local call centers that are available 24/7

Quick help for suicidal thoughts and other mental health emergencies will soon be easy as 9-8-8. Starting Saturday, the new three-digit crisis hotline will launch across the United States, routing callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

DETROIT – Quick help for suicidal thoughts and other mental health emergencies will soon be easy as 9-8-8.

Starting Saturday, the new three-digit crisis hotline will launch across the United States, routing callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The National Suicide Prevention Line has been around since 2005, but It’s a 10-digit number, so it is hard to remember. So, to make getting ahold of those resources easier, starting Saturday (July 16), all people will have to remember is 988.

“You think about when things go on in a home, and you have like a news story where a young child dial 911 and they were the deciding factor if their mom lived or not,” said Keisha Jackson.

Getting connected to mental health support will now be just as easy.

Jackson, the founder of Caleb’s Kids in Detroit, a mental health and suicide prevention nonprofit for children, believes the new 988 setup will change lives.

“Now, this number 988 is accessible to all,” Jackson said. “It’s something that we can teach kids when they’re young that they can go here and get this number and call this number to get help when they need it.”

Jackson is hoping it helps adults, too, as she lost her younger brother Caleb Jackson to suicide in 2015; He was 22 years old, and she can’t help thinking about the difference it would have made for him.

“That is one of the deciding factors of this organization that if he had someone to talk to where he felt comfortable leaning in and comfortable getting the help that he needed, then maybe he would still be here today,” Jackson said.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline features a network of more than 200 state and local call centers that are available 24/7.

Macomb County Community Mental Health is one of them.

“So our crisis will be taking calls from all over the country plus, they’ll be taking calls from our local,” said Crystal Bouissi. “All these lines have been merged into one. Nobody should ever have to experience a long wait anywhere.”

Bouissi is the Director of Community and Behavioral Health Services (MCCMH) and says they know the need is great.

“The seriousness of the cases has increased, and also the volume has increased,” Bouissi said.

The hope with 988 is that the lives saved will also increase.

“The fact that we have this, and we have this number that will help change how we think about mental health, help change how we think about support really could be life-changing and have a generational impact,” Jackson said.

In 2021, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline received 3.6 million texts and calls. Once they switch over to 988, they expect that number to double.


About the Authors:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.