988 suicide prevention hotline launched nationwide

People experiencing a mental health crisis can now call or text a three-digit number 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and connect with mental health professionals trained to respond to such emergencies.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline went live on Saturday morning according to SAMHSA deputy secretary Miriam Delphin Rittmon.

The hotline is designed to provide 24/7 free and confidential emotional support across the country to people with mental health problems, the 988 lifeline website explains.

The new number connects the caller to a certified crisis center in the area where the call is made, according to the website. The hotline consists of a network of 200 local crisis centers across the country.

“When people call, text, or chat 988, they are put through to trained responders who are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network,” the website says. “These trained counselors will listen, understand how their issues affect them, provide support, and connect them with resources if needed.”

The three-digit number is expected to be easier to remember in times of crisis than the 10-digit 800 number currently administered by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It also aims to streamline mental health responses so people can get the urgent help they need much faster than calling 911, which generally connects callers to law enforcement agencies rather than mental health professionals. .

The launch comes about two years after the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was passed in 2020 to designate 988 as the universal number for the national suicide prevention and mental health hotline.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 10-digit number, 800-273-8255, will remain operational after the launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Additional resources remain available by texting HOME at 741741 or by visiting SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.

Nicole Acevedo contributed.

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