New 988 suicide and crisis lifeline launches

UNITED STATES — Beginning on July 16, 988 is the country’s new phone number for people struggling with suicide and crises.

The phone number was established to improve access to crisis services to meet the country’s growing suicide and mental health-related needs. The number will provide easier access to the Lifeline network and related crisis resources, which are distinct from the public safety purposes of 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire, and police as needed).

Text (currently English only) will be available through 988 by July 16. When someone texts 988, they will be responded to by a group of Lifeline crisis centers that respond to chat and text. This service will increase local and state-level response over the next few years. 

Callers will first hear a greeting message while their call is routed to the local Lifeline network crisis center (based on the caller’s area code). The Lifeline provides live crisis center phone services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages for people who call 988. A trained crisis counselor will answer the phone, listen to the caller, understand how the problem affects them, provide support, and share resources if needed. If the local crisis center cannot take the call, the caller will be automatically routed to a national backup crisis center.

In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes. Suicide is the leading cause of death for people ages 10-34.

There is hope. Providing 24/7, free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress works. The Lifeline helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day.

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