988 crisis line launches nationwide this weekend

New three-digit dialing code to serve similar purpose as National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

US launching 988: New suicide prevention lifeline

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be shifting to its new three-digit dialing code across the United States starting this Saturday, July 16.

988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The existing phone number for the lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, will still work and direct callers to crisis handlers, but the new 988 dialing code is meant to be easier to remember.

The current Lifeline phone number will always remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis even after the 988 number is launched nationally.

When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network, according to the 988 Lifeline Website. These professionals will listen, provide support and connect the caller to resources if necessary.

The Lifeline’s network of over 200 crisis centers have reportedly been in operation since 2005, and has proven to be effective. As the universal dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 988 will increase the accessibility of these life-saving interventions and resources, officials say.

Callers who dial 988 from Michigan will be routed through the lifeline to one of three call centers in Michigan, according to Lynn Sutfin, public information officer with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The lifeline “serves as a backup” if the state’s call centers are experiencing a high volume of calls.

“We understand some people will call 911 when they need 988, or 988 when they need 911,” Sutfin said. “When that happens, those calls will be transferred to the correct line. We are working on making sure those transitions are done smoothly through coordination with 911 centers as well as coordinating with other crisis services.”

Vibrant Emotional Health is the current administrator of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. They say that a 988 crisis line that is effectively resourced and promoted will be able to:

  • Connect a person in a mental health crisis to a trained counselor who can address their immediate needs and help connect them to ongoing care,
  • Reduce health care spending with more cost-effective early intervention,
  • Reduce use of law enforcement, public health, and other safety resources,
  • Meet the growing need for crisis intervention at scale, and
  • Help end stigma toward those seeking or accessing mental healthcare.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, a federal legislation designating 988 as the three-digit dialing code for the Lifeline, was signed into law in October 2020. The Federal Communications Commission has required telephone providers to make calling to the Lifeline via 988 accessible by July 16, 2022.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, get help by calling or texting 988 or visiting 988lifeline.org to be connected with a professional.