988: Help for crisis support is three numbers away
July 25, 2022
988 – the new three-digit number for mental health, substance use and suicide crisis – is now available across the country to call or text during a crisis. When someone calls or texts 988, they will be connected directly to trained crisis counselors who can help those experiencing thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis or any other kind of emotional distress. This new, shorter dialing more easily connect those in need to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a network of more than 200 state and local crisis call centers supported by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HSS).
Congress designated 988 in 2020, and the former 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioned to the 3-digit number in July 2022. As a part of the federal government’s commitment to addressing the mental health crisis in America, unprecedented federal resources have been invested to scale up crisis centers in support of 988. New nationwide statistics also revealed an urgent need and a startling reality of mental health and well-being after the pandemic, including these:
- In 2020 alone, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes
- For people aged 10 – 34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death, and
- From April 2020 to 2021, over 100,000 individuals died from drug overdoses.
“988 is more than a number, it is a message: we’re there for you. Through this and other actions, we are treating mental health as a priority and putting crisis care in reach for more Americans,” said HSS Secretary Xavier Becerra, who has identified the mental health as a top national priority.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration anticipates that 988 will continue to grow and evolve, much the way 911 and emergency medical services have grown over the last 50 years. In 2021, the Lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts. That number is expected to at least double within the first full year after the 988 transition.